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Journal of the
New Testament Society
of South Africa

Tydskrif van die Nuwe-

Testamentiese Werkgemeenskap
van Suid-Afrika

44 (1) 2010
Journal of the New Testament Society of South Africa (NTSSA)


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Editor of the Journal

J A Draper

Review Editor
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P J J Botha (chairman) B Decharneux

J C Thom L Hartman
P G R de Villiers H J KIauck
J Punt J M Lieu
M S Tshehla M J J Menken
G J Steyn H Moxnes
P Dijkhuizen T Okure
P Nagel C Rowland
J Schröter


Derek Brown 1 “The God of Peace Will Shortly Crush Satan

under your Feet”: Paul’s Eschatological
Reminder in Romans 16:20a

Bogdan Bucur 15 Matt 17:1-9 as a Vision of a Vision: A

Neglected Strand of the Transfiguration

Sebastian Fuhrmann 31 Saved by Childbirth: Struggling Ideologies,

the Female Body and a Placing of 1 Tim 2:15

Mark D. Mathews 47 The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and

Jude: Does the Synoptic Tradition Resolve
this Synoptic Problem?

Maarten J. J. Menken 67 Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth


John G. Nordling 85 Some Matters Favouring the Runaway Slave

Hypothesis in Philemon

Peter Nyende 122 Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies: A

Task of African Biblical Scholarship

Jeremy Punt 140 Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and
Gal 3:28: A Postcolonial, Queer Reading of
an Influential Text

167 Book Reviews

204 NTSSA Membership List

The Co-Secretary: Publications
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Pietermaritzburg 3209
South Africa


ISSN 0254-8356

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Derek R. Brown
University of Edinburgh

Romans 16:20a has been called an “apocalyptic kicker” (Scholer 1990, 53) that is
meant to bolster the apostle’s words of admonishment in Rom 16:17-19. Others
have struggled to connect Paul’s promise to the preceding verses in the chapter,
partially due to its apparent allusion to Gen 3:15 and/or the so-called “Proto-
Evangelium” which seemingly have little to do with vv. 17-19. However, if we pay
attention to the more probable allusion in the verse (Ps 110:1), not only are we able
to make better sense of the verse itself but also to understand how it relates to, and,
indeed, concludes the unit of Rom 16:17-20. Paul’s use of the words of the popular
psalm are essential to this brief but powerful eschatological reminder of God’s
certain victory over Satan. For Paul uses part of the psalm in Rom 16:20a to assure
his readers that God will crush his enemies, and, importantly, that he will do so
“under their feet”.

1. Introduction
The Apostle Paul closes his letter to the Romans with a warning of internal
division (Rom 16:17-20) which he underscores with a significant promise: “the
God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet”. 2 Scholarly discussion of Rom
16:20a has tended to focus on the objects of the sentence and the timing of Satan’s
anticipated demise. Also often highlighted is the apparent allusion in Paul’s
promise of Satan’s destruction to Gen 3:15 and the so-called “Proto-Evangelium”.
According to this interpretation, Paul’s words in Rom 16:20a foretell of Satan’s
ultimate doom as the fulfillment of God’s cursing of the serpent in the Genesis
narrative. But is it accurate to recognize such an allusion and, concomitantly, to
interpret the verse accordingly?
In this article it will be argued that the recognition of an allusion to Gen 3:15 in
Rom 16:20a has proved to be something of a red herring in the exegesis of the

1 An earlier version of this paper was given at the International Society of Biblical Literature
meeting (Rome, Italy, July 3, 2009) under the title, “Romans 16:20a and its Significance for
Paul’s Understanding of Satan”.
2 All biblical quotations taken from the NRSV unless otherwise noted.
Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 1-14
© New Testament Society of South Africa
2 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

verse. More important for the interpretation of the verse, it will be suggested, is the
prepositional phrase ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας ὑμῶν (“under your feet”), which is probably
an allusion to Ps 110:1. This part of the verse is often overlooked, or, at the least,
not fully taken into consideration when interpreting Rom 16:17-20. Conversely,
this article will argue that Rom 16:20a is best interpreted in light of its allusion to
Ps 110:1 as a reference to the subjugation of Satan, and not as a fulfillment of Gen
3:15. This interpretation not only makes sense of the meaning of Rom 16:20a
itself, but also helps understand the verse within its wider context (vv. 17-20) and
in light of the early Christian appropriation of Ps 110:1. It will also be argued that
Paul not only draws upon the early Christian understanding of Ps 110:1 to
emphasize the subjugation of enemies, but that he adapts this tradition to meet his
own pastoral aim regarding Satan’s certain defeat. Our interpretation therefore has
implications not only for the exegesis of Rom 16:20a, but also for Pauline
eschatology and Paul’s use of scripture.
Before we turn to the Paul’s reference to Satan’s demise in Rom 16:20a,
however, we must first address two important matters for investigating this
passage. First, we need to address the suggestion that Rom 16 is a later addition to
Paul’s letter, and second, we need to demonstrate how this far-reaching promise
relates to the content of Paul’s closing remarks in Rom 16:17-20.

2. The Authenticity of Romans 16:17-20

A number of factors have led scholars to doubt the authenticity of Rom 16, thus
calling into question the value of Rom 16:20a for understanding the historical
Paul’s thought and theology. 3 This is not the occasion to rehearse the subtleties of
previous arguments or to consider every hypothesis advanced on the topic, but here
we will briefly address these issues under three headings: (1) manuscript evidence
concerning Rom 16; (2) Rom 16 as a possible separate letter addressed to Ephesus;
and (3) the apparent disjunctive tone and content of Rom 16:17-20 compared to the
rest of the letter. 4
The main difficulty with Rom 16 in terms of textual evidence is the ordering of
P46, which places the final doxology (located at Rom 16:25-27 in the NA27)
between chapters 15 and 16 of the letter. 5 This location of the doxology offers
evidence both for a fifteen-chapter form of Romans and the possibility that chapter
16 might have been originally independent of the remainder of the letter (Gamble
1977, 40). At this point P46 is unique, however, and thus as important a witness it

3 For an overview of the key points of discussion, see P. Stuhlmacher 1994, 244-46.
4 For more on the internal evidence, see Dunn 1988, 884; on the external evidence, see
Donfried 1970, 441-49; H.Y. Gamble 1977, 36-55, 84-95; Stuhlmacher 1994, 244-45.
5 For more on this issue including the location of the doxology in various manuscripts, see the
discussion in B.M. Metzger 1994, 470-73.
BROWN The God of Peace will Soon Crush Satan under Your Feet 3

is to the Pauline corpus, “it remains a single witness and cannot carry the case for
the originality of the fifteen-chapter text form by itself” (Gamble 1977, 53).
Ultimately, the order and length of Romans in P46, even though it points toward a
hypothetical fifteen-chapter Romans letter, cannot be corroborated by further
textual evidence and therefore is unable to settle the question of whether Rom 16
originally belonged to Paul’s letter to the Romans.
It is also argued on the basis of internal evidence that Rom 16 was once an
independent letter, with Ephesus as its most likely destination. Joseph Fitzmyer
lists six main pieces of evidence for this view (1993, 57-58): (1) the character of
Rom 16:1-23 is different from the rest of Romans; (2) as noted above, the order of
P46 suggests that chapter 16 was a later addition to the letter; (3) early patristic
writers do not quote chapters 15 and 16; (4) Rom 16 bears some of the hallmarks
of a Greco-Roman “letter of recommendation”; (5) there are no references to
individuals in Rom 1-15 whereas 16:3-16 lists a number of persons in Rome; and
(6) to anticipate our final heading below, the admonition in Rom 16:17-20 seems
incongruous with the tone of the rest of Romans. However, as Fitzmyer also notes,
each of these points is subject to counterarguments. 6 Thus the internal evidence, as
with the external evidence discussed above, fails to provide a compelling case one
way or the other.
The last point to mention here regarding Rom 16, and the one most relevant to
our topic, is the content of vv. 17-20. As most commentators highlight, these
verses come as something of a surprise in the flow of the letter due to their abrupt
shift from the previous text and the critical nature of their content. 7 Whereas Paul’s
tone has been largely irenic in the first fifteen chapters of Romans and the
greetings in 16:3-16, vv. 17-20 offer words of warning and admonition. As
unexpected as this section might seem, however, there are several reasons which
help clarify the ostensibly inappropriate character of vv. 17-20. First, as Bjerkelund
suggests, the παρακαλῶ—introduction to vv. 17-20 does not make the section an
authoritarian warning but rather a respectful, “urbane” request (1967, 159-61). 8
Second, as Gamble rightly suggests, vv. 17-20 do not necessarily reflect “a

6 So Fitzmyer 1993, 59-61; Gamble 1977, 47-55. See also J.C. Miller (2000, 139-44), who
argues that Rom 16:17-20a fits within the wider context and purport of Romans, and Jeffrey
A.D. Weima (1994, 96), who dismisses the claim that this passage is an awkward interruption
within the letter by arguing that, “If, then, the peace benediction of 16:20a were seen to close
this section rather than the whole letter, this would go a long way to account for its unique
occurrence, placement and form”.
7 Furthermore, it has been argued that Rom 16:17-20 is not only a non-Pauline addition to the
letter but actually an anti-Pauline interpolation (Jewett 2007, 986-88).
8 Both Gamble (1977, 52) and Fitzmyer (1993, 61) follow Bjerkelund on this point. Cf.
Käsemann 1980, 326. For similar Pauline passages, see Rom 12:1; 15:30; 1 Cor 1:10; 4:16;
16:15; 2 Cor 2:8; 10:1; Eph 4:1; 1 Thess 4:1, 10; 5:14; cf. Acts 27:34; Heb 13:22.
4 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

developed state of conflict” (1977, 52). Rather, given the reference to the Romans’
obedience in v. 19 they might actually be intended to prevent such a situation from
developing. Finally, even if one accepts a certain level of discontinuity between
chs. 1-15 and 16:17-20, several possible explanations can be put forward to
account for their differences. 9
In light of the foregoing discussion, and in particular the lack of evidence
against the traditional position, this article’s analysis of Rom 16:20a will proceed
by positing ch. 16 of Romans as an original part of the letter and as a product of the
Apostle Paul, and vv. 17-20 as a generic warning of a latent situation within the
Roman church.

3. Context of Romans 16:20a

In terms of the content of the passage, Paul’s warning in vv. 17-20 concerns a
schismatic group within the church and the apostle’s instructions on how to deal
with them. The passage contains three specific instructions to the Romans (vv. 17,
19), a description of the opposing group (v. 18), and a reminder of the ultimate fate
of God’s great enemy (v. 20). In v. 17 Paul instructs the church to do two things
concerning those causing “dissensions and offenses” (τὰς διχοστασίας καὶ τὰ
σκάνδαλα): keep an eye (σκοπέω) on them and avoid (ἐκκλίνω) them. The Roman
congregation is neither to trust or nor to associate with such people. Paul’s third
instruction (v. 19), a somewhat more generic one, is “to be wise (σοφοὺς) in what
is good and guileless (ἀκεραίους) in what is evil”. 10 Throughout the letter Paul has
already said much concerning evil, 11 so here we must assume that he is reminding
them of the importance of being wise with respect to the group mentioned in vv.
17-18. That is, those causing dissensions and offenses are the “evil” which Paul
urges them to avoid. Paul then underscores his words in vv. 17-19 by adding in v.
20a a promise which reminds his readers of the fate of Satan and all evil-doers.
Unlike some of the other references to Satan in the undisputed Pauline letters, 12
in Rom 16:20a the figure of Satan is not essential to Paul’s main point. It would be
wrong, however, to interpret the verse apart from its immediate context of Rom
16:17-20 as a semi-detached benediction. Nor does one have to make sense of

9 For example, some of have suggested the possibility that Paul had received fresh information
regarding the Romans to which he was responding (so Barrett 1991, 284-85). It has also been
claimed that Paul himself wrote this section instead of his amanuensis, Tertius (so Dunn
1988, 906).
10 There may be an echo here of Jesus’ words in Matt 10:16: “See, I am sending you out like
sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise (φρόνιμοι) as serpents and innocent (ἀκέραιοι) as
11 E.g., Rom 7:19, 21; 12:17, 21; 13:10.
12 See 1 Cor 5:5; 7:5; 10:10; 2 Cor 2:11; 4:4; 6:15; 11:3, 14; 12:7; 1 Thess 2:18; 3:5.
BROWN The God of Peace will Soon Crush Satan under Your Feet 5

verse 20 by glossing Paul’s mentioning of “Satan” with his reference to the

dissenters in vv. 17-18. 13 Rather, Rom 16:20a is best viewed as an eschatological
promise made within the context of Paul’s admonition of those causing dissensions
and offenses within the Roman church (v. 17) and in light of Paul’s instructions to
the Roman believers on how to respond to such dissenters (v. 19). Functionally
speaking, then, v. 20a is an eschatological reminder meant to compel the Roman
Christians to act wisely in the face of those causing conflict and schism within their
This brief overview of the context of Rom 16:17-20a brings us to the content of
v. 20a, which we will investigate by first considering its background.

4. The Background to Paul’s Eschatological Reminder

A quick glance at virtually any commentary or article on Rom 16:20a will reveal
the widespread consensus that lurking in the back of the apostle’s thought is the
scene in Gen 3 in which God curses the serpent for deceiving Adam and Eve. 14
Other scholarly works point to a possible allusion to Ps 110:1 in Paul’s anticipation
of God’s defeat of Satan in light of the phrase “under your feet”. 15 In this section
we will look at these two suggested allusions, including the possibility of a
reference to both passages, and consider their potential meaning within the context
of Paul’s words to the Romans.

4.1 Genesis 3:15 and the “proto-evangelium”

Paul’s mentioning of the “crushing” of Satan in v. 20a has led many scholars to see
in the text a possible allusion to Gen 3:15d: “he [Eve’s offspring] will strike your
[the serpent’s] head” (#$)r Kpw#$y )wh). 16 Some scholars even argue for its direct
influence on Paul’s thought in Rom 16:20a (Fitzmyer 1993, 746). An allusion to
this passage would certainly be in line with other strands of Jewish thought given
that God’s cursing of the serpent in the Genesis narrative, which later would
become the basis of the “Proto-Evangelium”, was well-known and influential

13 We will discuss this point in full below.

14 So C.E.B. Cranfield 1979, 803; F.L. Godet 1881, 406; F.J. Leenhardt 1957, 217; P.W. Macky
1993, 122; T.R. Schreiner 1998, 804; U. Wilckens 1978, 143; N.T. Wright 2002, 764-65; G.J.
Wenham 1987, 81; L. Morris 1988, 541.
15 So Macky 1993, 122; D.M. Scholer 1990: 53-61. R. Jewett (2007, 994) and N. Forsyth (1987,
265-66) at least note a possible allusion.
16 The UBS4 lists Rom 16:20 (along with Luke 10:19) as an apparent allusions or verbal
parallel to Gen 3:15; the NA27 does not mention Rom 16:20 though it does list both Rev 12:7
and Luke 10:19.
6 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

within several Second Temple Jewish texts. 17 T. Sim. 6:6, for example, says that
“then all the spirits of deceit will be given to be trodden under foot” (εἰς
καταπάτησιν). 18 Likewise, in T. Zeb. 9:8 we read that “he [the Lord] will redeem
all the captivity of the sons of men from Beliar, and every spirit of deceit will be
trodden down” (πατηθήσεται).
This tradition seems to have continued within early Christianity in at least one
text. In Luke 10:19, Jesus declares “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash
of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread (πατεῖν) on snakes and
scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy and nothing will hurt you”.
Apparently, in these Jewish and early Christian texts the imagery and language of
Genesis 3:15 was considered appropriate for expressing the hope of an ultimate
defeat of Satan and evil powers.
It would not be surprising, then, if in Rom 16:20a Paul too is drawing on the
Genesis text. However, there are several reasons to doubt an allusion to Gen 3:15
as well as any direct influence on Paul’s thought in Rom 16:20a. First, if Paul does
have Gen 3:15 in mind here, it would be at least somewhat odd since his wording
is not close to either the Hebrew or Greek versions of Gen 3:15. 19 Second, Paul’s
verb choice does not indicate an allusion to Gen 3. Whereas the MT has the
Hebrew verb Pw#$ (“to bruise”) and the LXX confusingly has τηρέω (“to guard” or
“to keep”), Paul employs the more violent συντρίβω (“to crush” or “to break”).
Third, if Gen 3:15 is shaping Paul’s thought, one would probably expect to find the
Greek term ὁ ὄφις (“the serpent”) instead of ὁ σατανᾶς. Although by the first
century C.E. the serpent of the Genesis narrative was commonly identified with the
figure of Satan (e.g., Wis 2:24), Paul’s only other reference to the serpent of Gen 3
uses the term ὄφις (2 Cor 11:3) rather than σατανᾶς or διάβολος, thus suggesting
that Paul may have still distinguished between the two figures. Fourth, although
Luke 10:19, Heb 2:14, and Rev 12:7 are often cited as additional NT allusions to
the “Proto-Evangelium”—all of which are far from certain allusions—this theme is

17 In addition to this tradition, Satan’s demise is frequently attested to in Second Temple Jewish
literature. See, e.g., Jub. 5:6; 10:7, 11; 23:29; 1 En. 10:4, 11-12; 13:1-2; 2 En. 7:1; T. Mos.
10:1; 1QS 3:18; 4:18-23; 1QM 1:5; 17:5-6; 18:1-3, 11; T. Levi 18:12; T. Jud. 25:3; cf. 1QM
13:10-11; 1 En. 54:6 where God uses a divine agent to defeat a Satan-like figure. See also
Rev 20:7-10 where the devil is cast into the lake of fire for eternity.
18 The translation here and in the following example is that of H.W. Hollander and M. de Jonge
19 As Moo notes, however, other possible allusions to Gen 3:15 in Jewish writings also fail to
follow its wording closely (1996, 932, n. 40). See also Jub. 23:29; T. Mos. 10:1; T. Levi
18:37; T. Sim. 6:6; cf. the twelfth benediction in the Shemoneh Esreh.
BROWN The God of Peace will Soon Crush Satan under Your Feet 7

not common in the rest of the NT writings and conspicuously absent in the
undisputed letters of Paul. 20
In light of the foregoing discussion, and as tempting as it might be to do so in
light of later Christian tradition, it does not seem accurate to recognize Rom 16:20a
as a direct allusion to Gen 3:15. Rather, as Dunn cogently proposes, it is more
likely that the Genesis text has influenced the broader Jewish apocalyptic hope of
an ultimate defeat of the evil powers, of Satan being crushed or destroyed (1988,
905), which in turn has probably influenced the apostle’s thought. 21 Accordingly,
one can speak of Paul’s thought in Rom 16:20a as being shaped by Gen 3:15 only
insofar as the Genesis text has influenced Jewish apocalyptic hope more broadly.

4.2 Psalm 110:1 and the subjugation of enemies

The other OT text believed to be alluded to in Rom 16:20a is Ps 110:1 (LXX
109:1). That Ps 110 was quoted or alluded to more than any other OT text in the
NT demonstrates its importance for early Christianity. 22 Moreover, it seems that
Christians drew upon Ps 110:1 from a very early date 23 —at times in conjunction
with Ps 8:7 and its notion of all things (τὰ πάντα)—to affirm their beliefs regarding
Christ’s vindication and exaltation as well as the subjugation of evil powers to the
risen Christ (Hay 1973, 122-29). 24
In the undisputed letters of Paul, the use of this early Christian tradition is most
clearly evident in Paul’s affirmation of Jesus’ heavenly intercession in Rom 8:34
and in his explanation of the sequence of eschatological events to the church at
Corinth in 1 Cor 15:20-28 (cf. Eph 1:10, 20-22; Col 2:15). In both instances Paul is
remarkably able to allude to Ps 110:1 knowing that the congregations will be
familiar with the theological concepts associated with the psalm (Hengel 1995,

20 Even Godet, who argues for a connection to Gen 3:15 in Rom 16:20a, is forced to admit that
it is “strange” that no other allusions to “the ancient promise” of Gen 3:15 are to be found in
the New Testament (1881, 406).
21 Dunn (1988, 905) identifies the following possible allusions: cf. Ps 91:13; T. Sim. 6:6. T. Levi
18:12; Luke 10:18-19). E. Käsemann suggests that Gen 3:15 may have been “the starting
point” of this tradition, but also that to identify an allusion to it is “much too harmless” (1980,
22 M. Hengel 1995, 133. Hengel lists the following (twenty-one) passages as examples: Matt
22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42f.; 22:69; Acts 2:33, 34f.; 5:31; 7:55f.;
Rom 8:34f.; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12f.; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:22. See
also J. Dupont 1974; M. Gourgues 1978; W.R.G. Loader 1978; H.W.I.V. Bateman 1992.
23 D.M. Hay 1973, 129; Hengel 1995, 172-75.
24 With varying degrees of confidence, Hay (1973, 123) lists the following texts in support of
this claim: Matt 26:64; Mark 14:62; 16:19; Acts 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20;
Heb 10:12-13; 1 Pet 3:22; Rev 3:21; 1 Clem. 36:5-6; Pol. Phil 2:1; Apoc. Pet. 6; Sib. Or.
2.243; Heg [Hist. eccl. 2.23.13]).
8 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

137, 140). We will now briefly examine these two texts before returning to Rom

4.2.1 Psalm 110:1 in Romans 8:34

Romans 8:34 is located in a series of rhetorical questions posed by Paul in vv. 31-
39. To the question, “who is to condemn [us]” (τίς ὁ κατακρινῶν), Paul’s response
is that “it is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of
God (ὃς καί ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ), who indeed intercedes for us”. 25 In this
passage Jesus’ intercession, and therefore the assurance of believers, is based on
Paul’s reference to the early Christian belief that Jesus had been vindicated and
exalted to God’s right hand, a conviction itself often expressed using the language
of Ps 110:1. Furthermore, given the use of Ps 110:1 to emphasize the subjection of
enemies in early Christianity, it is probably not wrong to see Rom 8:34 as also
implying the defeat of enemies, perhaps here understood as the things listed by
Paul in vv. 38-39 which are unable to separate us from “the love of God in Christ
Jesus our Lord”. 26

4.2.2 Psalm 110:1 in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

The other passage in which Paul alludes to Ps 110:1 is 1 Cor 15:20-28 (see Hay
1973, 123-25 and Lambrecht 1982, 502-27). This text is all the more crucial for
our study given that it uses Ps 110:1 in conjunction with Ps 8:7 to emphasize the
subjugation of “all things” and all enemies in a profoundly eschatological context.
We quote vv. 24-28 here to point out the allusions to Ps 110:1 and Ps 8:7:
Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he
has destroyed every (πᾶσαν) ruler and every (πᾶσαν) authority and power. For he
must reign until he has put all (πάντας) his enemies under his feet (ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας
αὐτοῦ). The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things (πάντα)
in subjection under his feet’ (ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ). But when it says, ‘all things
(πάντα) are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the one who put
all things (τὰ πάντα) in subjection under him. When all things (τὰ πάντα) are
subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all
things (τὰ πάντα) in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all (τὰ πάντα ἐν
Here Paul describes the ultimate defeat of evil powers at the end of the present
age as when Christ, having “destroyed every ruler and every authority and power
[and having] put all his enemies under his feet”, hands over the kingdom to his

25 Paul’s words in Rom 8:34 bear a “confession-like character” and therefore probably of pre-
Pauline origin (Hay 1973, 40; Hengel 1995, 139).
26 If so, one might be able to read Paul’s list in Rom 8:38-39 as a sort of exposition of what he
refers elsewhere to as τὰ πάντα “all things” (1 Cor 15:25-28).
BROWN The God of Peace will Soon Crush Satan under Your Feet 9

Father, who then puts all things in subjection “under his feet” (ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας
αὐτοῦ). As Hay points out, in this passage Paul probably drew upon Ps 110:1c 27
because “he could find in its ‘until’ a clear scriptural prophecy of a time gap
between the onset of Christ’s reign and the consummation” (1973, 124). 28 Paul
also alludes to Ps 8:7 from which he got the notion of “all things” (lk/πάντα), a
phrase echoed no less than ten times in this passage. 29
In 1 Cor 15:20-28, then, Paul draws on the early Christian tradition of using
these two psalms to underscore the subjugation of all things, including enemies
such as death and presumably Satan, to the exalted Christ. 30 Furthermore, in this
passage Paul adapts the words of the psalms and their meanings to fit his own
pastoral concern to address the Corinthians concerning the timing of the return of
Christ and the consummation.
From these two examples of Paul’s use of Ps 110:1 we can see that the text was
important for both early Christianity and the apostle himself. In both Rom 8:34 and
1 Cor 15:20-28 Paul draws on the words and concepts of the psalm assuming that
his readers are familiar with its christological and eschatological meanings in early
Christianity. Furthermore, it seems that Paul both understood and expressed the
final destruction of God’s enemies using the imagery and language of subjugation
as found in Ps 8:7 and 110:1, which should not be surprising given that this
practice was commonplace in early Christianity.

5. Crushing Satan “Under Your Feet”

Having noted the frequency and importance of Ps 110:1 in early Christianity—
especially as interpreted in conjunction with Ps 8:7—and having looked at the two
places in which Paul clearly draws upon this tradition, we are now in a position to
consider Rom 16:20a as another possible allusion to Ps 110:1 and its importance
for interpreting this reference to Satan.

27 Hay also suggests that δεῖ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν might not be merely an introduction to Ps 110:1c
but actually an allusion to, or paraphrase of, v. 1b of the psalm: “sit at my right hand” (1973
36, n. 6). If so, then Paul would here be alluding to both v. 1b and v. 1c of Ps 110.
28 Moreover, and as Hay notes, the “time of subjection” varies in the texts which allude to Ps
110:1: some texts place it at the Parousia (e.g., Matt 26:64); some envision it in the past with
immediate impact for the present (e.g., Eph 1:20; 1 Pet 3:22); and some look forward to the
future and last judgment for the completion of the subjection (e.g., Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25;
Heb 10:12-13) (1973, 123).
29 Admittedly, it is possible that Paul is using a version of Ps 110:1 different from the MT or
LXX (Hay 1973, 36-37). However, the frequency of this combination of texts in early
Christian writings suggests that Paul is also alluding to Ps 8:7. Furthermore, the word πάντα
is crucial for Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 15:20-28 where it occurs 12 times (ibid.).
30 For other examples of this tradition, see Eph 1:20-22; 1 Pet 3:22; cf. Pol. Phil 1:1. Hengel
speaks of Ps 110:1 and 8:7 as being “woven together” in 1 Cor 15 (1995, 163-72).
10 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

5.1 An allusion to Psalm 110:1 in Romans 16:20a?

In considering whether we are to recognize the presence of Ps 110:1 in Rom
16:20a, it is important that we take the actual words of the verse seriously. For Paul
could have simply written ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης συντρίψει τὸν σατανᾶν … ἐν
τάχει. He does not stop there, however, but adds a phrase well-known in early
Christianity and loaded with meaning: ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας ὑμῶν. To overlook this
prepositional phrase or to read it apart from its other occurrences in early
Christianity would be a mistake. For as we shall see, the presence of the
prepositional phrase ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας ὑμῶν in v. 20a is critical for understanding the
apostle’s admonishing words in Rom 16:17-20.
A possible allusion to Ps 110:1 in the present text is suggested by three
observations: (1) the presence of the prepositional phrase ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας ὑμῶν
(“under your feet”); (2) that in the NT this phrase almost always comes from Ps
110:1 or Ps 8:7 or a combination of the two verses; 31 and (3) that the concept of
Satan being crushed “under foot” fits with one of the most common uses of Ps
110:1 in early Christianity: to affirm the subjugation of enemies (Hay 1973, 122-
Another reason in support of the proposed allusion is that the violent language
of Rom 16:20a fits with the warfare imagery of Ps 110. In the royal psalm, the two
oracles (v. 1 and v. 4) are amplified with language resonant of military-like
dominion. In addition to the promise of enemies being made “your footstool”, the
psalm also tells the king “to rule in the midst of your enemies”. In the latter part of
the psalm we read of YHWH’s defeat of Israel’s enemies, whose kings he will
“shatter” (Cxm/συνθλάω) on the day of his wrath (v. 5) and whose heads he will
“crush” (Cxm/συνθλάω) over the whole earth (v. 6).
Thus Paul’s verb choice (συντρίβω), while not taken directly from Ps 110,
nevertheless shares with the psalm connotations of violent and utter destruction of
one’s enemies. 32 This conceptual scope of crushing/defeat/subjection is also found

31 Similar phrases can be found in Matt 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:43; Acts 2:35; 7:49; 1 Cor
15:25, 27; Eph 1:22; Heb 1:13; 2:8; 10:13; cf. Mark 6:11; Rev 12:1.
32 The verb συντρίβω is not found elsewhere in the Pauline corpus and seldom in the NT (Matt
12:20; Mark 5:4; 14:3; Luke 9:39; John 19:36; Rev 2:27), though it is common enough in the
LXX, occurring some 219 times. However, the verb is not used in the LXX of Gen 3:15; nor
is it used in the LXX to translate any of the four occurrences of Pw#$ in the OT (Gen 3:15
[2x]; Ps 139:11; Job 9:17). For similar uses of συντρίβω to refer to the “crushing” of enemies,
see 1 Macc 3:22 (“he himself [the Lord] will crush [συντρίψει] them before us; as for you, do
not be afraid of them”) and Pss. Sol. 17:24 (“with a rod of iron he [i.e., the king] shall break
[συντρίψαι] in pieces all their substance; he shall destroy the godless nations with the word of
his mouth”). On the basis of the references to συντρίβω in 1 Macc., Jewett suggests that it
BROWN The God of Peace will Soon Crush Satan under Your Feet 11

in 1 Cor 15, the other main Pauline text alluding to Ps 110:1, where Paul uses
καταργέω to refer to the destruction of enemies and ὑποτάσσω to refer to their
subjugation. 33 Violent language used to describe the ultimate defeat of God’s
enemies thus seems to be part of Paul’s eschatological vocabulary. Given these
points it seems that the phrase ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας ὑμῶν in Rom 16:20a is most likely
an echo of Ps 110:1 in a similar fashion to Paul’s use of the text in 1 Cor 15.

5.2 Paul’s pastoral adaptation of Psalm 110:1

There is one point regarding this allusion to Ps 110:1 (and 8:7) which, up to this
point, has not been mentioned. That is, in all the different ways in which the notion
of enemies being put “under foot” is mentioned in early Christian writings, and
indeed in the psalms themselves, enemies are always put under the feet of the king
or a messiah figure. Never are enemies described as being put under the feet of
Israel or the early Christians. In Rom 16:20a, however, Paul tells the congregation
that “the God of peace 34 will soon crush Satan under your feet” (ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας
ὑμῶν). What are we to make of this difference?
It is possible, of course, that the different pronoun is reason to doubt the
suggested allusion. However, perhaps a better explanation is that what Paul has
done in Rom 16:20a is to adapt the early Christian use of Ps 110:1 for his own
purposes. Earlier we noted that in 1 Cor 15:25-27 Paul was concerned to remind
his readers of the timing of God’s ultimate rule, and so adapted the early Christian
view of Ps 110:1 to this end. Likewise, in the present text Paul wants to remind the
Romans of the reality that God’s defeat of Satan will mean the defeat of those who
cause dissensions and offenses within the church, and therefore adapts the psalm to
make this point.
Paul’s eschatological promise (v. 20a) should therefore be interpreted within
the context of its immediate context (Rom 16:17-20). As we noted above, in the
preceding verses Paul has been warning the Romans of dissenters in their midst
and instructing them to keep an eye on their “enemies” while also avoiding them.
In this way they can be wise concerning what is good and innocent concerning
what is evil. Paul then adds an eschatological reminder in Rom 16:20a that evokes
a hope shared by Jews and Christians: the belief that God would one day defeat all
evil powers and enemies, including Satan himself. Paul specifies the significance
of this eschatological promise by telling the Roman congregation that when God

could be “an expression for violent, military triumph” (2007, 994, n. 97). See also G. Bertram
1985, 919-25.
33 ὑποτάσσω is used six times in 1 Cor 15:27-28; cf. ὑποτάσσω in LXX Ps 8:7 with “under his
feet” (ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ).
34 ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης also occurs in Rom 15:33; cf. Rom 15:13. See also 1 Cor 14:33; 2 Cor
13:11; Phil 4:9; 1 Thess 5:23; cf. 2 Thess 3:16; Heb 13:20; LXX Judg 6:23-24.
12 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

“crushes” Satan, the enemy of God’s people, he will do so under their feet. 35 As
Käsemann writes, “God is the victor who destroys Satan…in such a way that the
community shares in the triumph” (Käsemann 1980, 418; cf. Byrne 1996, 278;
Moo 1996, 933). Those who serve God by being wise in what is good and innocent
in what is evil will, according to Paul’s promise, share in the victory of God,
whereas those who cause dissensions and offenses will, by implication, share in the
defeat of Satan. 36
What Paul has done in Rom 16:20a, therefore, is to extend the eschatological
victory over God’s enemies to believers. They will share in that victory since all of
God’s enemies—whether it be Satan, death, or those who cause schisms within the
church—will be placed not only under the feet of Christ but also under their feet.
Paul’s hermeneutic here is therefore ecclesiocentric (cf. Hays 1993, 84-87), 37
which is somewhat remarkable given that in 1 Cor 15 he interprets Ps 110:1 in the
same way several other early Christian texts do, that is, christocentrically
(Lambrecht 1982, 511). Nevertheless, Paul’s extension of Ps 110:1 to believers
plays a crucial part in this part of Romans as he reminds his readers in this pithy
but potent promise of the final outcome of evil, a reminder from which they could
take courage knowing that their perseverance against such internal division would
not be in vain (Scholer 1990, 53). The work of Satan and his servants would not
prevail in their midst (cf. 2 Cor 11:13-15).
If this reading it correct, then the meaning of Paul’s promise in Rom 16:20a is
not too far away from his words to the Corinthian church 1 Cor 15: “thanks be to
God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57). 38
Paul’s readers in Rome can look forward to the day when God’s goodness will
prevail over Satan for they will share in that victory. Of Satan’s fate the Roman
Christians surely knew, but Paul’s eschatological reminder here at the end of his
great letter bears special significance as it is applied to their present situation,
reminding them of their share in God’s victory over Satan.

35 Excluded, therefore, are interpretations which argue that the crushing of Satan—whether
taken to mean the devil himself or those mentioned in vv. 17-19—is to take place
immediately (G.P. Wiles 1974, 95; Morris 1988, 541). Furthermore, Moo is right to state that
the phrase ἐν τάχει does not present a problem for the eschatological interpretation in light of
texts such as Rom 13:11-14 (1996, 933, n. 41).
36 Contra those who suggest the defeat of Satan/enemies is in someway contingent upon
believers carrying out Paul’s instructions in vv. 17-19 (e.g., C.H. Dodd 1932, 243; Jewett
2007, 995; W. Sanday and A.C. Headlam 1902, 431).
37 As Hays argues is the case in another Pauline text (R.B. Hays 1993, 120-21), here Paul’s
ecclesiocentric reading is based on a christological foundation. That is, Satan will be crushed
under their feet because he will already be crushed under the feet of the true victor, the risen
Christ who has defeated sin and death and who is at the right hand of God.
38 To be sure, in 1 Cor 15:57 the victory (νῖκος) is over sin and death (vv. 54-56; cf. v. 26).
BROWN The God of Peace will Soon Crush Satan under Your Feet 13

6. Conclusion
Having reconsidered the commonly suggested Old Testament allusions in Rom
16:20a, it is clear that Paul is not vaguely appealing to God’s promise to crush the
serpent in the Genesis narrative. That promise was indeed important for Jewish
eschatological hopes in general, and although we cannot rule out an allusion to it
with certainty, Paul probably did not allude directly to Gen 3:15 in Rom 16:20a.
Instead, as we have argued, Paul drew upon the early Christian tradition of
interpreting Ps 110:1 as speaking of the subjugation of Christ’s enemies “under his
feet” (ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ). Moreover, he adapted the psalm (as he also did in 1
Cor 15) to meet his pastoral need as he offered the Roman Christians a reminder of
the fate of God’s great enemy and his servants. According to this promise,
believers will share in the eschatological victory when God crushes Satan “under
their feet”.

Works Cited
Barrett, C.K. 1991 [1957]. The Epistle to the Romans. 2nd ed. London: A&C Black [BNTC].
Bateman, H.W., IV. 1992. Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament. BSac 149: 438-53.
Bertram, G. 1985. συντρίβω, σύντριμμα. TDNT 7: 919-25.
Bjerkelund, C.J. 1967. Parakalô: Form, Funktion und Sinn der parakalô-Sätze in den
paulinischen Briefen. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget [BTN 1].
Byrne, B. 1996. Romans. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical [SP 6].
Cranfield, C.E.B. 1979. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the
Romans. 6th ed. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: T&T Clark [ICC].
Dodd, C.H. 1932. The Epistle of Paul to the Romans. London: Hodder & Stoughton
Donfried, K.P. 1970. A Short Note on Romans 16. JBL 89.4: 441-49.
Dunn, J.D.G. 1988. Romans 9-16. Waco, Tex.: Word Books [WBC 38B].
Dupont, J. 1974. “Assis à la droite de Dieu”: l’interprétation du Ps 110, 1 dans le Nouveau
Testament. Pages 340-422 in Resurrexit. Actes du Symposium international sur la
résurrection de Jésus. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Fitzmyer, J.A. 1993. Romans. New York: Doubleday [AB 33].
Forsyth, N. 1987. The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton
University Press.
Gamble, H.Y. 1977. The Textual History of the Letter to the Romans: A Study in Textual and
Literary Criticism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans [SD 42].
Godet, F.L. 1881. Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Translated by A. Cusin.
Vol. 2. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Gourgues, M. 1978. A la Droite de Dieu: Résurrection de Jésus et Actualisation du Psaume
110:1 Dans le Nouveau Testament. [S.l.]: J. Gabalda.
Hay, D.M. 1973. Glory at the Right Hand: Psalm 110 in Early Christianity. Nashville,
Tenn.: Abingdon [SBLMS 18].
Hays, R.B. 1993. Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. New Haven, Conn.: Yale
University Press.
14 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Hengel, M. 1995. “Sit at My Right Hand!” The Enthronement of Christ at the Right Hand of
God and Psalm 110:1. Pages 119-226 in Studies in Early Christology. Edinburgh:
T&T Clark.
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Commentary. Leiden: Brill [PVTG].
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Käsemann, E. 1980. Commentary on Romans. London: SCM.
Lambrecht, J. 1982. Paul’s Christological use of Scripture in 1 Cor 15:20-28. NTS 28.4:
Leenhardt, F.J. 1957. L’Épitre de Saint Paul aux Romains. Neuchâtel: Delachaux [CNT VI].
Loader, W.R.G. 1978. Christ at the Right Hand: Ps 110:1 in the New Testament. NTS 24.2:
Macky, P.W. 1993. Crushing Satan underfoot (Romans 16:20): Paul’s Last Battle Story as
True Myth. Pages 121-33 in Proceedings, Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest
Biblical Societies. Cincinnati, Ohio: Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical
Metzger, Bruce M. 1994. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed.
Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
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Edited by L.E. Keck. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon.

Bogdan G. Bucur
Duquesne University

This article points to a strand in the reception history of the Transfiguration account
that is generally neglected in biblical and patristic scholarship. According to
Irenaeus of Lyon, Tertullian, ps.-Ephrem Syrus, Anastasius the Sinaite, John of
Damascus, and the Byzantine hymnographic tradition, Matthew’s account is not
only a vision that the disciples have of Christ, but also a vision granted to Moses and
Elijah, witnessed by the disciples. Relating Matthew’s account of a vision on Tabor
with the biblical vision reports of Moses and Elijah at Sinai was crucially important
for early Christians: (a) it underlay their appropriation of the Scriptures of Israel as
“Old Testament”, by using exegetical procedures that find their closest analogon in
the “rewritten Bible” characteristic of certain strands of Second Temple Judaism; (b)
it lent itself to polemical use against dualism and monarchianism; (c) it was
eventually absorbed into Byzantine festal hymnography, thereby gaining wide
acceptance in Byzantine theology.

1. Introduction
Ulrich Luz’s three volumes on Matthew in the Evangelisch-Katholischer
Kommentar zum Neuen Testament series (available for the English-speaking world
in the Hermeneia series), the monumental Davies-Allison commentary, Allison’s
Studies in Matthew, as well as a host of other works on the textual transmission and
the reception history of Matthew in early Christianity, 2 all bear witness to the fact
that the Wirkungsgeschichte of the Gospel of Matthew—in fact, the reception

1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense LVIII
(University of Leuven, July 2009). I am grateful to my Teaching Assistant, Mr. Benjamin
Burkholder, for his help in proofreading the manuscript at several stages.
2 Massaux 1990 (1950); Koester 1957; Morgan 1969; Köhler 1987; Stanton 2001; Racine
2004; Min 2005; Bucur 2007.
Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 15-30
© New Testament Society of South Africa
16 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

history of the Bible in general—is now regarded as a necessary part of biblical

scholarship. 3
In what follows I would like to approach the Transfiguration account in Matt
17:1-9 from a reception-historical perspective. This is certainly not a new or
under-researched area in scholarship. Jarl Fossum has offered a thorough analysis
of the Transfiguration traditions in early Christian apocryphal writings, while
Michel Aubineau, Peter Chamberas, Roselyne de Feraudy, John McGuckin,
Andreas Andreopoulos, and Michel van Parys have been near-exhaustive in
illustrating the rich reception history that the Transfiguration account has had in the
patristic and medieval literature of the Christian East and West. 4 Nevertheless,
certain crucial elements of the early Christian reception of Matt 17:1-9, have been
overshadowed or even forgotten in scholarship, and thus need to be revisited. I
have in mind, more specifically, the interpretation of the Transfiguration as a
“vision of a vision”: a vision granted to Moses and Elijah, witnessed by the

2. The Vision on Tabor and the Vision on Sinai

New Testament scholars have not failed to notice the evident echo of Sinai present
in Matt 17:
For Matthew the first purpose of the manifestation is to recall Exod 24 and 34 . . .
Jesus is the prophet like Moses (cf. Deut 18:15, 18) … The eschatological prophet,
the one like Moses and Elijah, has appeared, and the light of the resurrection and
parousia has already shown forth.
Jesus’ transfiguration moves thoughts back and forward in time: it is a replay of
Sinai and a foretaste of things to come … the mount of Transfiguration was, for the
evangelists, including Matthew, a second Sinai, where a miracle of old was
Some have suggested the existence, in the background of the synoptic
Transfiguration account, of an older Christology that sought to establish Jesus as a
Moses-like figure, superior to the old prophet in degree. The transition from that
sort of “prophetic Christology” to a Christology that insisted on a difference in
kind between Moses and Jesus, the unique Son of God, could very well have
happened with Mark:

3 Luz 1989; Luz 1994; Luz 2006; Allison 2005 (see esp. 117–31).
4 Fossum 1995a; Fossum 1995b; Aubineau 1967; Chamberas 1970; de Feraudy 1978;
McGuckin 1986; Andreopoulos 2005; van Parys 2007.
5 Davies and Allison 1991, 705.
6 Allison 1993, 246; 247.
BUCUR Matt 17:1-9 as a Vision of a Vision 17

By a subtle redaction which has amounted to removing the radiant face motif,
transforming the two angels of covenant into Moses and Elijah, relocating the awe
of the disciples away from the cloud theophany towards the appearance of the
prophets, introducing the correction of Peter by means of a patronizing excuse, and
finally reintroducing the theophany words from God now as Bath Qol to throw all
our attention specifically onto Jesus alone—by means of such editorial reworkings,
then, Mark has effectively removed the last lingering vestiges of prophetic
Christology from the story and pointed us quite clearly in the Christological
direction subsequently explicated by the patristic church. 7
By the time of the First Gospel, according to Allison, “Jesus’ superiority to Moses
is only a very minor theme of the transfiguration narrative”, because “the
superiority of Jesus to Moses is an assumption of our Gospel more than it is an
assertion”, so that “given Jesus’ assumed superiority, the more one exalted Moses,
the more one exalted Jesus”. 8
It is noteworthy that Matthew is the only Gospel that refers to the
Transfiguration as a “vision” (ὅραμα, Matt 17:9). We may want to ask: whose
vision? And a vision of what? McGuckin finds that the answers provided by
patristic interpreters fall into several categories: christological (“the vision of
Christ’s radiance as a manifestation of his own essential deity”); soteriological (a
vision of the human being deified in via); and eschatological (a vision of the
resurrection glory in patria). 9
Less explored in scholarship is a strand in the reception history of the
Transfiguration accounts which interprets the event not only as a vision that the
disciples have of Christ, but as a vision of Christ granted to Moses and Elijah,
witnessed by the disciples. 10 The representatives of this approach include
Irenaeus, Tertullian, Ps.-Leo of Rome, Ps.-Ephrem, Anastasius the Sinaite, John
Damascene, and Cosmas of Maiouma. In various ways, and for a variety of
reasons, these writers link Tabor with Sinai—specifically with the vision at the
burning bush (Exod 3:3) 11 and with God’s refusal to show his face (Exod 33:20)—

7 McGuckin 1986, 18 (for more details see 14-18). See also Thrall 1970; Goulder 2000.
According to Goulder, Mark is correcting an older prophetic Christology, attributable to
Jesus’ relatives (206-208), which presented Jesus as a new Moses and a new Elisha: “Mark
himself rejected any prophet-like-Moses Christology: to him Jesus was the Son of God who
‘came’” (203); “At first perhaps the movement asked, If John was Elijah, who is Jesus?; and
so tales were told of him assimilated to the Elisha stories. But with time ... Jesus took on the
colours of both figures. Mark does not like this: to him John was Elijah all right, but Jesus is
the Son of God. Only, the stories he tells give the background Christology away” (199).
8 Allison 1993, 247-248; 275.
9 McGuckin 1986, 100, 125, 117, 122.
10 As an exception, see Hall 1987, esp. 43-44.
11 One of the authors, Anastasius the Sinaite, draws this connection by exploiting the link
between Matt 17:9 (τὸ ὅραμα) and Exod 3:3 (τὸ ὅραμα τὸ μέγα).
18 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

and identify the transfigured Jesus with the mysterious ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν at the burning
According to the Septuagint, in response to Moses’ request to see God’s glory
more intimately (δεῖξόν μοι τὴν σεαυτοῦ δόξαν, Exod 33:18), God states (Exod
33:19) that he will indeed manifest himself to Moses—by parading in his glory
(παρελεύσομαι πρότερός σου τῇ δόξῃ μου) and by proclaiming the divine name
(κύριος) before the prophet, and showing him his back parts (τὰ ὀπίσω μου)—but
insists on the impossibility of a more complete revelation: Οὐ δυνήσῃ ἰδεῖν μου τὸ
πρόσωπον; τὸ δὲ πρόσωπόν μου οὐκ ὀφθήσεταί σοι (Exod 33:20, 23). 12
Some early Christians interpreted this to mean that the vision face to face,
refused to Moses, was being postponed for a later time. Irenaeus of Lyon, for
instance, writes:
[Exod 33:20-22] signifies two things, namely that it is impossible for man to see
God, and that man will see Him in the latter times on the summit of rock, thanks to
God’s wisdom: that is in His coming as man. And it is for this reason that he
conferred with him face to face on the top of the mountain [at Transfiguration],
while Elijah was also present (as the Gospel relates), thus fulfilling in the end the
ancient promise (restituens in fine pristinam repromissionem, ἀποκαταστήσας ἐν τῷ
τέλει τῆν πρότεραν ἐπαγγελίαν).
Evidently, Tabor “fulfils the ancient promise” only on the assumption that the
Christ on Tabor is the very one who summoned Moses on Sinai. The same holds
true for Elijah whose theophanic experience on Horeb/Sinai Irenaeus mentions
immediately after that of Moses. 14
For Tertullian also, the “Face of God” that Moses desires to see is, in fact, the
Son. Indeed, it is the Son of God who “was visible before the days of his flesh”,
and “appeared to the prophets and the patriarchs, as also to Moses indeed
himself”. 15 To be sure, Tertullian explains, the Son’s apparitions to patriarchs and
prophets, including Moses, were always somewhat veiled and imperfect—in
speculo et aenigmate et visione et somnio. The reason is that they occurred
“according to the faculties of men, not in accordance with the full glory of the
Godhead (secundum hominum capacitates, non secundum plenitudinem
divinitatis)” since “the Son …, considered in himself (suo nomine), is invisible, in
that He is God and the Word and Spirit of God”. 16 A more perfect vision of the
Face of God—i.e., of the Son—than was available to Moses on Sinai (or for Isaiah
and Ezekiel in Zion or its heavenly representation) was reserved for Tabor:

12 I am using the LXX because the patristic writers I will discuss were using the Greek Bible.
13 Irenaeus, Haer. 4.20.9 (Latin text and Greek retroversion in SC 100/2: 656-657).
14 Irenaeus, Haer. 4.20.10-11.
15 Tertullian, Prax. 14.6-7.
16 Tertullian, Prax. 14.7, 14.2, 14.6.
BUCUR Matt 17:1-9 as a Vision of a Vision 19

He reserves to some future time (servat ... in futurum) his presence and speech face
to face with Moses—for this was afterwards fulfilled (adimpletum est) in the
retirement of the mount [of Transfiguration], as we read in the Gospel, “Moses
appeared, talking with him”.
Tertullian offers the same interpretation elsewhere: Exod 33 is a promise given
on Sinai, which is fulfilled on Tabor, when Moses finally contemplates the Face of
God, the Son, in the glory of the Transfiguration. 18 Origen echoes this view—only
briefly, however, before moving on to what he regards as “more mystical”
considerations. 19
This type of exegetical linking of Sinai and Tabor carries on in orations and
hymns of the Transfiguration by Ps.-Leo of Rome, Ps.-Ephrem Syrus, Anastasius
the Sinaite, and John Damascene. In Ps.-Ephrem’s Sermon on the Transfiguration,
for instance, one reads:
There was joy for the Prophets and the Apostles by this ascent of the mountain. The
Prophets rejoiced when they saw his humanity, which they had not known. The
Apostles also rejoiced when they saw the glory of his divinity, which they had not
known … and they looked to one another: the Prophets to the Apostles and the
Apostles to the Prophets. There the authors of the old covenant saw the authors of
the new (οἱ ἀρχηγοὶ τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης τοὺς ἀρχηγοὺς τῆς νέας).

17 Tertullian, Prax. 14.7.

18 Tertullian, Marc. 4.22.14-15: “And if we call to mind the promise (commemoremur
promissionis) to Moses, here it will be seen fulfilled. For when Moses asked to have sight of
the Lord, and said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, manifest thyself to me, that I may
knowledgeably see thee [Exod 33:13] what he looked for was that aspect in which he was to
live his human life, which as a prophet he was aware of—but God’s face, he had already been
told, no man shall see and live—and God answered, This word also which thou hast spoken, I
will do it for thee [Exod 33:20]. And again Moses said, Shew me thy glory: and the Lord
answered, concerning the future, as before, I will go before <thee> in my glory [Exod 33:18-
19] and what follows. And at the end, And thou shall see then my later parts [Exod 33:23] not
meaning his loins or the calves of his legs, but the glory he had asked to see, though it was to
be revealed to him in later times. In this glory he had promised to be visible to him face to
face, when he said to Aaron, And if there shall be a prophet among you, I shall be known to
him in a vision, and shall speak to him in a vision, not as to Moses: to him I shall speak
mouth to mouth, in full appearance, the full appearance of that manhood which he was to take
upon him, and not in an enigma” [Num 12:6-8].
19 Origen, Comm. Mt. 12.43.
20 For the Greek text, see Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου Ἐργα (7 vols; ed. K.G. Phrantzolas;
Thessaloniki: Το Περιβόλι της Παναγιάς, 1998), 7:13-30. An English translation is available
online at The translator, Ephrem Lash,
notes: “The numbering of the sections is my own, for ease of reference. It is clear that the
present form of the text cannot go back to the fourth century. Sections 13, 16 and 17 use the
technical language of Chalcedon in 451 and the long section 15 is also redolent of the fifth
20 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Andreopoulos notes that “this mutual recognition … stressed the harmonization

of the two covenants and the unity of the Church, but it also delineated the
Transfiguration as a dynamic field of recognition”. 21 I think it important to
emphasize a different point: Ps.-Ephrem’s juxtaposition assumes that the Lord who
revealed himself to Moses and Elijah on Sinai is the same Lord who summoned
Peter, James, and John to join him on Tabor.
Anastasius the Sinaite writes in similar fashion:
Today the ancient heralds (κήρυκες) of the Old and the New Testaments have both
wonderfully gathered with God on the mountain, of wonderful mysteries having
become recipients. … And present with those leaders (μεθ’ ὧν κορυφαίων) of the
New Covenant was also Moses—that leader (κορυφαῖος) of the Law, that divine
initiate of the mysteries—with Elijah the Tishbite.
Despite the ultimate subordination of Sinai’s inferior revelation to that of
Tabor, 23 it is important to note that the very juxtaposition of the κήρυκες and
κορυφαίοι of the two covenants (cf. the ἀρχηγοί in Ps.-Ephrem) rests on an
identification of the theophanic subject of Sinai/Horeb with that of Tabor. This
identification is made explicit elsewhere, when Anastasius specifies the content of
Moses’ vision on Tabor by appealing to Exod 3:14 and Exod 33:
Now I have seen you, the truly existing one (τὸν ὄντως ὄντα)… you, who said on
the mountain, I am He-Who-Is [Exod 3:14]. … I have seen you, whom of old I
desired to see, saying, show yourself clearly to me (γνοστῶς εἴδω σε) 24 … I have
seen you, no longer as you revealed your back [ὀπτισθοφανῶς] and turned me away
on the rock of Sinai, but made visible to me clearly [ὧς ὀπτανόμενός μοι] on the
rock of Tabor.
The views of Ps.-Ephrem and Anastasius are echoed by John of Damascus and
Cosmas of Maiouma, whose compositions remain, to this day, part of the official
Transfiguration hymnography in Eastern Christianity. Thus, for instance, in John

century rather than the fourth.” Nevertheless, the passage in this homily most relevant to my
argument (Ἐργα 7:18-19 = section 9 in the English translation) may very well go back to the
real Ephrem (cf. Nat. 1.34-36; Epiph. 8.2-3). See also van Parys 2007, 252: “Même si le texte
grec préservé porte les marques d’une réécriture christologique chalcédonienne, cette homélie
conserve l’empreinte du lyrisme poétique syriaque”.
21 Andreopoulos 2005, 73.
22 Guillou 1955, 239: 15-17; 246:5-7. For a presentation of the homily, see Guillou 1955, 230-
236; 257-258; van Parys 2007, 253-259.
23 Tabor is “another Sinai,” but that which it grants in ἀντιμίμοις θεοφανείας trumps Sinai’s
σξιώδεις θεοπτίας (Guillou 1955, 240, 1-2); this remark is the opening salvo of a long section
structured by ἐκεῖ … ἐνταῦθα.
24 cf. Exod 33:13, ἐμφάνισόν μοι σεαυτόν· γνωστῶς ἴδω σε
25 Guillou 1955, 247:11-12; 15-16; 248:1-2
BUCUR Matt 17:1-9 as a Vision of a Vision 21

Damascene’s oration on the Transfiguration, Peter learns on Tabor that the ancient
revelation on Sinai, “I am He-Who-Is”, coincides with his own confession, “You
are the Christ, the Son of the living God”:
Today, the great prince of the new covenant [Peter], who clearly proclaimed that
Christ was the Son of the living God, saw the leader of the old covenant [Moses]
standing beside Him [Christ] who set the law of both; and he gave a piercing cry:
“This is He-Who-Is [Exod 3:14], who raised me up as prophet and sent me out as a
man and a prince of the new people”. 26
This point—Christ “setting the law of both covenants” and being both the one
who revealed himself to Moses as “He-Who-Is” and the one confessed by Peter as
Messiah and Son of God—is further developed by the Damascene:
He who once spoke through symbols to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, I am He who
is [Exod 3:14] was transfigured today upon Mount Tabor before the disciples . . . 27
You were seen by Moses on the mountain of the Law and again on Tabor; formerly
in the darkness but now in the unapproachable light of godhead. 28
The same christological interpretation of OT theophanies occurs in an
anonymous Georgian homily on the transfiguration, whose Greek original dates to
the end of the fourth century. 29

26 John of Damascus, Oration on the Transfiguration 2 (McGuckin 1986, 206). I have

capitalized “He-Who-Is” in order to make clearer the reference to Exod 3:14.
27 Great Vespers of Transfiguration, Apostichon (Menaion, 476). Except where indicated, the
English translation of the hymns is taken from The Festal Menaion (1969) and The Lenten
Triodion (1977), modified only to conform to contemporary use of pronouns and verbs.
28 Second Canon of Transfiguration: Ode 1, Sticheron 3 (McGuckin 1986, 202).
29 For an edition of the Georgian text accompanied by a French translation, see van Esbroeck,
1980. The text was composed in Antioch (or another city under its jurisdiction) around 380-
400, and translated directly from Greek into Georgian (van Esbroeck 1980, 418, 422). The
homilist explains that only those accustomed to approach the mountain that smoked (Exod
19:18) and to enter the luminous darkness (Exod 24:16-18) were summoned on the mountain
of the Transfiguration (ch. 13, 440/441); he pictures Moses and Elijah addressing Jesus
directly (and thereby revealing their identity to Peter): Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea
by “your blessed power” (ch. 11, 438/439); Elijah speaks of “your people” worshiping Baal
and killing “your prophets” (ch. 12, 438/439); he ascribes his own rapture into heaven to
Jesus, and identifies the latter as “he who bowed down the heavens” and “he who touches the
mountains and they smoke” in Pss 143:5 and 103/104:32 (ch. 12, 440/441); finally, it was the
“terror of your glory” on Horeb that overwhelmed Elijah and forced him to cover his face (1
Kgs 19:11-12), the same glory that is now displayed “in your servant-form” due to “your love
of humankind” (ch. 12, 440/441).
22 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

3. Not a Marginal Strand of Interpretation

It is quite obvious, from the texts surveyed so far, that an important segment of
patristic and Byzantine exegesis regards the Transfiguration not only as a vision
that the disciples have of Christ, but, so to speak, as a vision of a vision: a vision
that the disciples have of Moses and Elijah gazing on the transfigured Jesus
because they have gazed upon the same “Lord” before on Sinai. Through Cosmas
of Maiouma and John Damascene, this christological reading of the divine
manifestation on Sinai was absorbed into Byzantine festal hymnography, thus
becoming widespread and theologically normative. 30 The hymnography of the
Presentation, for instance, is replete with it, stating that it is the very Lawgiver who
thundered on Sinai that is now brought to the Temple:
Today Simeon takes in his arms the Lord of Glory whom Moses saw of old in the
darkness, when on Mount Sinai he received the tables of the Law . . . 31
Receive, O Simeon, Him whom Moses once beheld in darkness, granting the Law
on Sinai, and who has now become a babe subject to the Law, yet this is the One
who spoke through the law! . . . “ 32
The Ancient of Days, who in times past gave Moses the Law on Sinai, appears this
day as a babe. As Maker of the Law, He fulfills the Law, and according to the Law
He is brought into the temple. 33
The same perspective occurs in the hymns celebrating the Jordan Baptism. The
Baptist is petrified, because it is no less than the “Lord” revealed to Moses on Sinai
who now condescends to be baptized:
Moses, when he came upon You, displayed the holy reverence that he felt:
perceiving that it was Your voice that spoke from the bush, he forthwith turned
away his gaze [Exod 3:6]. How then shall I behold You openly? How shall I lay my
hand upon You? 34

30 See Bucur 2009.

31 Presentation of the Lord: Sticheron at the Lity (Menaion, 413).
32 Great Vespers of the Presentation: Sticheron at Lord I have cried (Menaion, 408).
33 Great Vespers of the Presentation: Sticheron at the Lity [Menaion, 412]. See also: “Today He
who once gave the Law to Moses on Sinai submits Himself to the ordinances of the Law, in
His compassion becoming for our sakes as we are . . . “. (Great Vespers of the Presentation:
Sticheron at the Lity [Menaion, 412]); “Today the holy Mother, who is higher than any
temple, has come into the temple, disclosing to the world the Maker of the world and Giver of
the Law” (Small Vespers of the Presentation: Glory Sticheron [Menaion, 407]).
34 First Canon of Theophany: Ode 4 Sticheron (Menaion, 370)
BUCUR Matt 17:1-9 as a Vision of a Vision 23

If I baptize You, I shall have as my accusers the mountain that smoked with fire
[Exod 19:18], the sea which fled on either side, and this same Jordan which turned
back [Ps 113/114:5]. 35
In fact, the exegetical connection between Sinai and Tabor is also reflected in
the readings assigned for the Feast of Transfiguration in Byzantine Christianity: the
texts selected to explicate Christ’s appearance on Tabor are Exod 24 (the
anthropomorphic appearance of the Lord to the seventy elders on Sinai), Exod 33
(“the promise”), and 3 Rgns / 1 Kgs 19 (Elijah at Horeb).
It is quite obvious that we are not dealing with a marginal strand of
interpretation. Indeed, none of the patristic authors has been read so extensively
and with such unconditional acceptance as these hymns, which have been (and
continue to be) chanted, listened to, and called to mind by believers from almost all
times and places. Even in Latin-speaking Christianity, despite Augustine’s bold
move to reinterpret theophanies as created, evanescent manifestations, 36 which
gradually imposed itself as normative in the West, the pre-Augustinian view
continued to be affirmed in hymns such as the Latin “O Antiphons” of Advent and
the ninth-century hymn Veni Immanuel, 37 as well as in manuscript illuminations. 38

4. The Vision of Tabor and the Vision of Habakkuk 39

The Transfiguration is sometimes understood not only in light of Sinai, but also in
light of later prophetic visions. According to Tertullian, for instance,
We find also in Habakkuk the complete outline of this vision (habitum visionis
istius), where the Spirit speaks in the person of the apostles (ex persona
apostolorum) sometime to be, “Lord, I have heard thy hearing and was afraid” (Hab
3:2). What hearing, other than of that voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son,
hear him” (Luke 9:35)? “I considered thy works and was astounded” (Hab 3:2):
when else than when Peter saw his glory, and “knew not what he said” (Luke 9:33)?

35 First Canon of Theophany: Ode 4 Sticheron (Menaion, 370).

36 See Studer 1971; Barnes 1999; Barnes 2003; Bucur 2008.
37 Antiphon for December 18: “Lord and Ruler (Adonai et Dux) of the house of Israel, who
appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us
with an outstretched arm!”; Veni Immanuel: Veni, veni Adonai qui populo in Sinai legem
dedisti vertice in majestate gloriae, with its well-known English rendering “O come, O come,
Thou Lord of Might /who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height /in ancient times didst give the law /
In cloud, and majesty, and awe”.
38 Examples can be adduced from the eleventh-century Ripoll Bible (Vat. Bib. Apost., Cod. Lat.
5729, fol. 6v) and Aelfric Paraphrase (Cotton Ms. Claudius B IV, fol. 105v), the twelfth-
century Winchester Bible (fol. 5r), and the thirteenth-century Palatine Psalter (Cod. Pal. Gr.
381b, fol. 172r): in all these manuscript illuminations, Moses receives the Law from Jesus.
39 For a more detailed treatment of the patristic and later Byzantine exegesis of Hab 3:2, see
Bucur and Mueller 2010.
24 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

“In the midst of two living creatures—Moses and Elijah—thou shalt be known”
(Hab 3:2). … And once more, Habakkuk again, “His virtue covered the heavens,
with that cloud, and his glory will be as the light” (Hab 3:3-4) the light with which
even his garments glistered. And if we call to mind the promise to Moses (Exodus
33), here it will be seen fulfilled. 40
In short, for Tertullian, Habakkuk’s exclamation, “O Lord, I have heard the
report of You and was afraid” (Hab 3:2) is actually uttered ex persona
apostolorum. Most importantly, the vision of the Lord, in his luminous glory,
between the two living beings (Hab 3:2) is a vision of the transfigured Christ
between Moses and Elijah. The language of “vision” is of significance in this
passage: even though Tertullian is quoting the Gospel of Luke (given Marcion’s
exclusive use of Luke), the linking of Tabor and Hab 3:2, which is crucial to his
argument, is possible on the basis of Matt 17:9, which refers to the Transfiguration
as ὅραμα.
Anastasius the Sinaite also links the vision on Tabor with the vision of
Habakkuk: Jesus appears “between the two living beings” both on the Mountain of
the Skull (between the two thieves, in a manner befitting the Cross, σταυροπρεπῶς)
and on the Mountain of the Transfiguration, between Moses and Elijah, in a
manner befitting God (θεοπρεπῶς). 41
There is, however, no passage in the Hebrew text of Habakkuk that could
suggest a vision of Christ between the two angels. The scriptural basis is afforded
instead by the Septuagint, which at Hab 3:2 reads, “Lord, I have heard report of
you, and was afraid: I considered your works, and was amazed: you will be known
between the two living creatures”. In Latin-speaking Christianity, despite the
Vulgate’s option for the Hebrew version of Hab 3:2 (“I have heard, O LORD, the
report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years renew
it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy”), the Old
Latin, which followed the LXX (in medio duorum animalium innotesceris),
continued to remain popular. One of the main reasons for this type of
conservatism was the ongoing liturgical use of Hab 3 (“the prayer of Habakkuk”)
as part of the so-called biblical odes—a series of biblical hymns that were used as
part of the Daily Office of both Eastern and Western Christianity. 42
The LXX version of Hab 3:2 has had a rich reception history. Aside from the
trinitarian exegesis of Origen, 43 the main interpretation is christological: “God

40 Tertullian, marc. 4.22.12-13.

41 Guillou 1955, 239.
42 Schneider 1949a, esp. 479–91 (“Die griechischen Oden im lateinischen Westen”); McNamara
2009, esp. 54. See also Schneider 1949b; Schneider 1949c; Schneider 1949d.
43 Origen, Princ. 1.3.4: (“we think that that expression also which occurs in the hymn of
Habakkuk . . . ought to be understood of Christ and of the Holy Spirit”. Cf. Origen, Hom.
Isa. 1.2 (PG 13:221B): “Quae sunt ista duo seraphim? Dominus meus Jesus et Spiritus
BUCUR Matt 17:1-9 as a Vision of a Vision 25

known between the two living beings” is the newborn Jesus between the ox and the
ass (Cyril of Alexandria, Symeon the New Theologian, the Gospel of Ps.-Mt.,
Eleutherius of Tournai); Christ crucified between the two thieves (Hesychius of
Jerusalem, Anastasius the Sinaite, Venerable Bede); Christ between his earthly life
and his life after the resurrection (Cyril of Jerusalem); Christ between the human
and the divine natures (Eusebius of Caesarea); Christ between the Old Testament
and New Testament (Cyril of Alexandria, Augustine, Jerome); and Christ between
the present life and future life (Theodoret). 44
It is obvious that Tertullian’s connection between the vision of Habakkuk (Hab
3:2) and the vision on Tabor (Matt 17:1-9) is not unique in early Christianity.
Aside from being echoed by Ps.-Leo of Rome, Anastasius the Sinaite, and the
Venerable Bede, its hermeneutical foundation—the interpretation of Old
Testament theophanies as Christophanies—is shared by the vast majority of
interpreters of the first Christian millennium.

5. Sinai and Tabor: Not “Typology”!

The connection between the Taboric vision and the Old Testament visions of
Moses, Elijah, and Habakkuk, is part of a larger exegetical and theological
enterprise. The identification of the “Lord” Jesus with the Old Testament “Lord”
who manifested himself to the patriarchs and prophets is, as a number of authors
have shown, a constitutive element of early Christology, and can be traced back to
the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of John, the Pauline corpus, and the catholic
Epistle of Jude. 45 In the second century, apologists such as Justin Martyr use this
type of “YHWH Christology” as the supreme argument against Trypho, by
affirming that Christ is the One who appeared to Adam in the Garden of Eden, to
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and, especially, to Moses on Sinai. A second context in
which theophanies play an important role is the anti-dualistic polemic of authors
such as Irenaeus or Tertullian. Their argument that Christ is not a “new” God,
rests upon the thesis that he has already manifested himself in the old dispensation.
As can be seen in Tertullian’s Against Praxeas, theophanies were also invoked

sanctus”. See also Irenaeus, Epid. 10 (God is glorified by the Logos and the Spirit, who are
identified with or in charge of “their powers”—the cherubim and seraphim); Mar. Asc. Isa. 9
(God is worshipped by the angel of the Logos and the angel of the Holy Spirit). For a
discussion of these passages in conjunction with Origen, see Kretschmar 1956, 64–67, 73;
Daniélou 1964 (1958), 134–140. See also, for connections with Philo, Lanne 1955.
44 For the references and a discussion of the texts, see Caprubí (1989); Harl (1999, 251–251,
287); Bucur and Mueller 2010.
45 Hanson 1965; Fossum 1987; Ellis 1994; Capes, 1992; Binni and Boschi 2004; Gieschen 2004
(with abundant references); Bauckham 2008. For the christological use of the divine Name in
early Christianity, see Daniélou 1964 (1958), 147–163; Behr 2001, 62–66; Gieschen 2003.
26 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

against modalism: since Christ has appeared in OT theophanies, whereas the Father
has not, it follows that the Son is distinct from the Father. 46
According to Alexander Golitzin, “[t]hat Jesus, Mary’s son, is the very One
who appeared to Moses and the prophets—this is the consistent witness of the
ante-Nicene Fathers, and remains foundational throughout the fourth century
trinitarian controversies and the later christological disputes”. 47 In fact, reading
OT theophanies as Christophanies is characteristic for the iconography,
hymnography, and exegetical literature of the first Christian millennium. The
problem we are facing is that the current scholarly categories for patristic exegesis
are somewhat inadequate for a satisfactory definition of this type of exegesis.
With respect to one of the Transfiguration hymns (“He who once spoke through
symbols to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “I am He who is” [Exod 3:14] was
transfigured today upon Mount Tabor before the disciples”), McGuckin notes the
following: “Exod 3:14—the revelation in the burning bush at Horeb which in its
illuminated radiance is taken as a type of Jesus’ radiance on Thabor”. 48
Chamberas, similarly, finds that Irenaeus “uses typology to explain the
Transfiguration of Christ”; and Andreopoulos refers to the connection between
Sinai and Tabor in patristic exegesis as a “fulfillment of typology”. 49
In my opinion, this verdict does not do justice to the above-mentioned
interpretation of the Bible. In the case of a “type”–”antitype” relation, one would
expect the interpreter to acknowledge a non-allegorical, non-christological level of
the text (e.g., the historical event of Exodus, or the giving of the Law), and then
posit a second—christological—level as the “fulfillment” of the OT “types”. Yet,
in the exegesis of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Anastasius the Sinaite, and John Damascene
discussed in this essay, Tabor is not “foreshadowed” by Sinai, and Christ is not
signified typologically, but straightforwardly identified with the “Lord” in the OT
A more illumining category would be “rewritten Bible”, which was coined
by Geza Vermes in 1961 and widely utilized since then to designate biblical
interpretation in Second Temple Judaism in writings such as the Book of the
Watchers, the Book of Giants, Jubilees, 2 Enoch, etc. It seems to me that the
hymnographic and iconographic depiction of Moses receiving the law from Jesus,
or Israel being led out of Egypt by Jesus, or Isaiah and Ezekiel seeing Jesus on the
throne on the merkavah, find their closest analogon in various types of rewritten
Bible in the Second Temple era, and in later writings of Jewish mysticism, which

46 See also the “Epistle of The Six Bishops” against Paul of Samosata and Eusebius of Caesarea
against Marcellus (De eccl. theol. 2.2.1).
47 Golitzin 2009, xviii.
48 McGuckin 1986, 143n. 7.
49 Chamberas 1970, 49 (emphasis mine); Andreopoulos 2005, 197 (emphasis mine).
BUCUR Matt 17:1-9 as a Vision of a Vision 27

point out, for instance, that Moses received the Law in the course of an ascent to
heaven, or, in the case of Jubilees, that the content of the heavenly law was dictated
to Moses by the Angel of the Presence, as it had in fact been dictated earlier to
some of the patriarchs, or, as in 3 Enoch, that Moses received the Law as dictated
by the highest angel Metatron. 50

6. Conclusions
Much of early Christian exegesis uses the Transfiguration account as a springboard
for spiritual rumination. This approach, exemplified by the treatments of Origen,
Augustine, and Maximus the Confessor, is generally well-known in biblical and
patristic scholarship. The pages above, by contrast, have pointed to a different
strand in the reception history of the Transfiguration account, which has been
given less attention in scholarship. According to Irenaeus of Lyon, Tertullian, Ps.-
Ephrem Syrus, Anastasius the Sinaite, and the Byzantine hymnographic tradition,
Matthew’s account is not only a “vision” (Matt 17:9) that the disciples have of
Christ, but, so to speak, a vision of a vision: a vision granted to Moses and Elijah,
witnessed to by the disciples.
Relating Matthew’s account of a vision on Tabor with the biblical vision
reports of Moses and Elijah at Sinai was crucially important for early Christians. It
underlay their appropriation of the Scriptures of Israel as “Old Testament”, by
using exegetical procedures that find their closest analogon in the “rewritten Bible”
characteristic of certain strands of Second Temple Judaism; it lent itself to
polemical use against dualism and monarchianism; finally, through John
Damascene and Cosmas of Maiouma, it was absorbed into Byzantine festal
hymnography, thereby gaining wide acceptance in Byzantine theology.
I conclude, therefore, that the interpretation of the (Matthean) Transfiguration
account as a “vision of a vision”, is an ancient and widespread interpretation of
Matt 17:1-9, which, as its hymnographic and iconographic reception attests, has
enjoyed unsurpassed popularity during the first Christian millennium.

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Allison, D. 2005. Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present. Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Baker.
Andreopoulos, A. 2005. Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and
Iconography. Scarsdale, N.Y.: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Aubineau, M. 1967. Une homélie grecque inédite sur la Transfiguration. AnBoll 85: 402-27.
Barnes, M.R. 1999. Exegesis and Polemic in Augustine’s De Trinitate I”. Augustinian
Studies 30: 43–60.

50 For a more extensive discussion see Bucur 2009, esp. 135-141.

28 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Barnes, M.R. 2003. The Visible Christ and the Invisible Trinity: Mt. 5:8 in Augustine’s
Trinitarian Theology of 400. Modern Theology 19: 329–356.
Bauckham R. 2008. Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the
New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans.
Behr, J. 2001. The Way to Nicaea. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Binni W., Boschi, B.G. 2004. Cristologia primitiva: Dalla teofania del Sinai all’Io sono
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Sebastian Fuhrmann
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster
North-West University, Potchefstroom

The much discussed phrase in 1 Tim 2:15a: “woman, however, will be saved by
childbirth”, is in the focus of this article. It is argued that against the backdrop of
ancient (Hippocratic) medical teachings concerning female diseases and gnostic
writings related to myths of the ‘womb’, a framework can be constructed within
which this phrase becomes a meaningful statement without altering the usual
denotations of the terms that have been used. It can be demonstrated that the literal
meaning of the soteriological term σῴζω is appropriated, but with a sarcastic
undertone. The passage, 1 Tim 2:15a, is concerned with the image of the female
body in antiquity, and therefore echoes facets of the power struggle between
opposing ideologies and gender in the second and third generation Church.

1. Introduction
The phrase this paper is concerned with is to be found in 1 Tim 2:15a, where the
author states: “(the) woman, however … will be saved by childbirth [ἡ δὲ
γυνὴ]…σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας”, within some exhortations regarding
the behaviour of women in the public worship assembly (1Tim 2:8-15, cf. Towner
2006, 190-239). The obvious discrepancy of the combination of genuinely salvific
terminology (σῴζω) on the one hand with an issue usually not considered to
possess any salvific effect (τεκνογονία) on the other has always been a bone of
contention, and the solutions offered to bridge the gap have been numerous (cf.
Towner 2006, 233-236). Attempts to defuse the problem by broaden or alter the
frame of semantic reference for σῴζω διά 1 have not been sufficiently convincing,

* This article is based on a paper read at the 2007 meeting of the NTSSA in Stellenbosch and at
one of the colloquia of the Institut für Christentum und Antike, Berlin. I am indebted to
Cilliers Breytenbach and other participants of the colloquium for helpful hints and comments.
1 See e.g. Kelly (1963, 69-70) or Hanson (1966, 38), who propose the meaning of ‘bringing
safely through’ instead of ‘to save from something by’. Thus, although Eve was deceived and
became a transgressor (and maybe received the punishment of pangs in childbearing), all
Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 31-46
© New Testament Society of South Africa
32 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

neither were suggestions to read ἡ γυνή as reference to Gen 2f. (cf. Bassler 1988,
55) 2 or to Mary. 3
The common interpretation of the verse tends to understand ‘the’ 4 τεκνογονία
in connection with the following conditional clause 2:15b (“provided they continue
in faith and love and holiness, with modesty [ἐὰν μείνωσιν ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ καὶ
ἁγιασμῷ μετὰ σωφροσύνης]”) as a pars pro toto: the whole process of bearing
children and living a life in ‘faith and love and holiness, with modesty’, thus taking
care of the oikos, leads to salvation, since it is foreseen by God’s creational order. 5
Interpreters hence tend to emphasise the second half of 1Tim 2:15 to explain its
first part (cf. Porter 1993, Holmes 2000, 242-249). 6
Although the abovementioned interpretation may concur with the general
intention of the author of 1 Timothy, proper explanation for the apparently unique
shift in meaning of σῴζω is still lacking. 1 Tim 2:15a is the only example
throughout the Pastoral epistles and the Pauline 7 letters in which a salvific effect is
ascribed to a natural act or to a work, or to its result, 8 and not to a somehow
spiritual salvation (cf. Holmes 2000, 245, n.17). 9 The purpose of the present paper

Christian women will be brought safely through the process of giving birth. The use of διά, at
least in biblical writings, does not support this view, because the preposition used with a
genitive always describes ‘by’ or ‘through’ in an instrumental or causative sense (Cf. 4
Kgdms 14:27; Wis 10:4; Isa 14:32; John 3:17; 10:9; Acts 15:11; Rom 15:9; 1 Cor 15:2; Eph
2:8; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21. Exceptional use in LXX: Ps 118:117: διὰ παντός, disputed in 1 Cor
3:15: διὰ πυρός).
2 The subject, ἡ γυνή, certainly refers to Eve as exponent, but therefore to women in general,
cf. Collins (2002, 76).
3 Pace Huizenga (1982); cf. Spicq (1969, 382-383). For further interpretations see Holmes
(2000, 244 n. 15).
4 For the generic sense of the article with τεκνογονία, see Holmes (2000, 245 n. 16).
5 This interpretation was already found among the Church Fathers, and was popular among the
reformers, cf. Grey (1991, 60).
6 Ulrichsen (1993, 102-103) suggests interpreting the ἐάν-clause as referring to the children,
which implies that it is the offspring of a woman what saves her.
7 Cf. 1 Tim 1:15; 2:4; 4:16; 2 Tim 1:9; 4:18; Titus 3:5; Rom 5:9-10; 8:24; 9:27; 10:9, 13;
11:14, 26; 1 Cor 1:18, 21; 3:15; 5:5; 7:16; 9:22; 10:33; 15:2; 2 Cor 2:15; 1 Thess 2:16.
Regardless of this evidence Roberts (1983, 20), proposes for 1 Tim 2:15: “… sōzō implies an
earthly non eternal salvation: a restoration of a woman to health and wholeness … not from
death, but from the theological condition which outlaws her [gnostic-sf.] teaching. She shall
be saved to ecclesiastical wholeness.”
8 The future tense indicates that childbirth, together with the conditions provided in 1 Tim
2:15b, is seen rather as a condition for a future salvation, not as the salvific act itself, see e.g.
comparable NT phrases in Mark 13:13 par. Matt 10:22; 24:13; Mark 16:16; Rom 5:9-10;
9:27; 10:9; 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Tim 4:16; 2 Tim 4:18; cf., however, e.g. John 10:9; Acts 2:21.
9 The exceptional nature of these formulations comes to the fore, in particular, with regard to
the “remarkable verbal similarities” between 1 Tim 2:11-15 and the thematically related
FUHRMANN Saved by Childbirth 33

is to propose a setting in Timothy’s congregation in Ephesus where this shift

becomes explicable.

2. Power-play in Ephesus: Sketching Some Aspects of the ‘Other


2.1 The ‘other doctrine’: textual evidence

The rigid utterances of the author of the pastoral letters regarding women and their
role in the church, including 1 Tim 2:15a, are to be viewed against the background
of a ‘power play’ within Timothy’s congregation in Ephesus. 10 Therefore it is
necessary to consider the aspects of the teaching of those who teach other
doctrines 11 (cf. Bassler 1988, 45). Despite the fact that a polemical intention can be
assumed, the description might echo some elements of this doctrine (cf. Towner
2006, 41, pace Dibelius/Conzelmann 1972, 66). Four aspects should be
emphasized: Firstly, while they consider themselves to be teachers of the law (1
Tim 1:7: νομοδιδάσκαλοι), their doctrine is described as being concerned with
myths and endless genealogies (1 Tim 1:4: μύθοις καὶ γενεαλογίαις ἀπεράντοις), or
with old-womanish myths (1 Tim 4:7: γραώδεις μύθους). 12 Both, teaching of the
law and genealogies, strongly indicate a Jewish or Judaizing background (Towner
1987, 103) 13 , while the qualification old womanish, certainly not a compliment,
may echo particular characteristics of these myths. Moreover, it is most likely that
the teachers of the other doctrine used to call this a γνῶσις (1 Tim 6:20, see
below). Secondly, according to 1 Tim 5:14-15 (marriageable) widows (νεωτέρας),
according to 2 Tim 3:6 young women (γυναικάρια), swayed by irrational lust
(ἀγόμενα ἐπιθυμίαις ποικίλαις) 14 were in particular attracted by those doctrines. 15

passage 1 Cor 14:33b-35 (cf. Towner 1987, 110-111.122 n. 83), which “seem to indicate that
a common ethical tradition was employed to curb the respective excesses of the women”
(Towner 1987, 111).
10 For Ephesus as the addressees’ home see e.g. Johnson (2001, 142-145) or Towner (2006, 37-
11 The translation ‘teach other doctrines’ for ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν is intended to underline a certain
non-partisan starting point for the analysis. For the labeling of orthodoxy and heresy, see
Bauer (1971, 1-4).
12 A similar use of the adjective is to be found in Strabo Geogr. 1.2.3. For further implications
of this qualification see, though focused on the Latin equivalent of γραώδης, anilis (and the
noun anus), Rosivach (1994). There (109-112) the author demonstrates that the adjective
refers to an unseemly, because unnatural, sexual passion. This might be comparable to the
mention of ‘irrational lust’ (2 Tim 3:6, see below).
13 In Titus 1:14 the ‘others’ are characterised as being Jewish, cf. also Titus 3:9.
14 Malherbe (1989, 126 n. 12), emphasises this meaning of ἐπιθυμία.
34 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Thirdly, ethical prescriptions are mentioned, such as chastity and abstention from
certain foods (1 Tim 4:3: κωλυόντων γαμεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι βρωμάτων). 16 Finally, the
fact is worth mentioning that the author of the pastoral letters never tires of
stressing the morbidity of the opposed teachers by employing metaphors,
obviously in terms of medical concepts (1 Tim 6:4: τετύφωται, νοσῶν; 2 Tim 2:17:
ὁ λόγος αὐτῶν ὡς γάγγραινα; cf. Malherbe, 1989, 123-124). The doctrine
represented by the author, on the other hand, is characterised as being sound or
healthy (1 Tim 1:10; 6:3: ὑγιαίνουσιν λόγοις). 17 According to Dibelius/
Conzelmann (1972, 25), this wording, together with other tendencies of argument-
ation, indicate “some shift toward rationalism”, while Malherbe observes certain
parallels between the argumentation of the author of the Pastorals and the Cynics,
mainly with regards to their obligation to truth and rationality (1989, 131). With
these four aspects in mind, we turn to the phrase itself and its possible parallels in
ancient literature.

2.2 Saved by childbirth: parallels in ancient literature

The notion of 1 Tim 2:15a, that a woman is saved by childbirth, is unique within
the New Testament. However, the motif itself has its parallels in ancient literature.
Interestingly, this motif occurs in a Hippocratic 18 medical writing within the
context of descriptions of female diseases. The Hippocratic author, in de virginum
morbis, 19 describes an anamnesis and a possible therapy of the ‘sacred disease’
(epilepsy or at least symptoms similar to it). The author locates the reason for the
‘so called sacred disease’ (τῆς ἱερῆς νούσου καλεομένης, Littré 1982, 466.4) in an
obstipation, by which the blood is collected in the womb (ἐς τὰς μήτρας, Littré
1982, 466.13) and hindered from flowing away, thus causing pressure on the heart

15 One might consider whether the argumentation in 1Tim 2:14-15 relies on these aspects. The
reference to Eve (1Tim 2:14: Ἀδὰμ οὐκ ἠπατήθη, ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἐξαπατηθεῖσα) is a sort of a
genealogical argument; using (ἐξ)ἀπατάω, a verb clearly signaling sexual connotations (cf.
Küchler 1986, 36-40) identifies Eve with the respective women in the congregation.
16 These prescriptions are often set in relation to the motif of the ‘realized eschatology’ taught
by the ‘other’ teachers cf. Towner (1987, 107). Given these preconditions, it is not very likely
that the love of money, the root of all kinds of evil, which is referred to and warned against in
1 Tim 6:10 (φιλαργυρία), formed part of their doctrine as well.
17 ‘Healthy or sound’ (ὑγιαίνω κτλ.) as an attribute of the true doctrine appears only in the
pastorals, cf. 1 Tim 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1-2. The other occurrences
refer to health in a literal sense (Luke 5:31; 7:10; 15:27; 3 John 1:2); cf. thereto Malherbe
18 For the relationship between works of Hippocrates and the Hippocratic corpus see e.g.
Hanson (1991, 74-95).
19 Greek text from Littré (1982), 466-471. Cf. thereto Demand (1994, 96); Lefkowitz (1981, 14-
15) and King (2000).
FUHRMANN Saved by Childbirth 35

and the diaphragm. Among the symptoms caused by this disease, the author
reckons, are visions and a death wish. The author then condemns the methods of
healing used by the soothsayers, who obviously relate their therapy to the cult of
But when the woman is [again] in possession of her senses, women dedicate many
other things and the most expensive feminine clothing (τὰ πολυτελέστατα τῶν
ἱματίων) to Artemis, thoroughly beguiled by the ordering of the soothsayers. Her
deliverance [occurs] when nothing hinders the outflow of blood. (Littré 1982,
468.17-21, my translation).
He offers another, rational explanation and therapy, stating,
But I myself urge the maidens, whenever they suffer such things, to cohabit with
men in the quickest manner, for if they conceive they become healthy. (Κελεύω δ’
ἔγωγε τὰς παρθένους, … ὡς τάχιστα ξυνοικῆσαι ἀνδράσιν,·ἢν γὰρ κυήσωσιν, ὑγιέες
γίνονται). (Littré 1982, 468.21-23, my translation)
The key phrase of the description of the therapy, which provides striking
resemblance to 1 Tim 2:15a, is “ἢν γὰρ κυήσωσιν, ὑγιέες γίνονται (if they
conceive, they become healthy)”. The semantic parallels are easily to be
discovered: κυέω resp. κύω and τεκνογονία unquestionably belong to the same
semantic field of conception and birth, the same applies for σῴζω and ὑγιαίνω κτλ.,
where semantic fields at least overlap. 20 Furthermore, there is a similar pattern of
1. In the cited passage from de virginum morbis the problem lies within a
particular disease, mainly the concern of women, which can only be solved by the
(bodily) intervention of men. 21 This aspect is clearly connected to the imagery of 1

20 In the synoptic Gospels in particular ‘to save’ is occasionally used synonymously with ‘to
heal’. Cf. Mark 5:23 (the parallel Matt 9:18 deletes σῴζω), Mark 6:56 par. Matt 14,52; Mark
10:52 par. Luke 18:42. See especially Mark 5:34 (ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε· ὕπαγε εἰς εἰρήνην
καὶ ἴσθι ὑγιὴς…), where Matt 9:22 replaces ἴσθι ὑγιὴς with ἐσώθη; see furthermore Philo
Conf. 25, Antiphon Tetralogia 1, 2.1; Plutarchus Ant. 43.3, to name but a few examples.
21 The quotation mentioned is not the only example, cf. Hippocrates De mulierum affectibus
2.127 (Lettré 1982, 274.5). Here, the advice to parthenoi to cohabit can also be found: τὴν δὲ
παρθένον πείθειν ξυνοικέειν ἀνδρί. Relatively similar, also, is Aristotle’s explanation for a
prolapsed womb resulting from a lack of sexual intercourse, cf. Hist. an. 582b22-26: “… in
many women because of their need for intercourse, due either to their youth and time of life
or to long abstinence, the uterus comes down (καταβαίνουσιν αἱ ὑστέραι) and the menses
often occur thrice monthly until they have conceived (ἕως ἂν συλλάβωσιν); and then the
uterus returns to its proper place above...” (text and translation from Balme 1991, 426-429).
More generally, Aristophanes Gramm. Historiae animalium epitome 1.99 also uttered his
opinion, stating that: “Only the woman [is] more gentle and milder after giving birth (μόνη
γυνὴ ἠπιωτέρα καὶ πραοτέρα μετὰ τὸ τεκεῖν), whilst the other living beings (become) fearful
36 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Tim 2:15a. Here, salvation—although not genuinely a female, but rather genuinely
existential, problem—can be gained by having sexual intercourse with the husband
in question, which is obviously implied by τεκνογονία.
2. The statement made by Hippocrates seems to suggest that he prefers a
‘reasonable’ explanation 22 and solution to a somewhat religious or mythical 23
manner of dealing with a very special (mainly) female disease. The reference to
childbirth, and thus to men, instead of a relation to a (female) deity, implies, at the
least, an attempt at rationalisation and profanation of (female) spiritual (and
physical) matters. 24 At first glance this connection is not as obvious as the first-
mentioned. It will be demonstrated, however, that the author of First Timothy quite
likely intends to make a similar statement.
There is, of course, no intention to propose literary dependency, but allow
adding two further observations. The abovementioned medical metaphors in 1 Tim
suggest, if not a certain familiarity with medical facts, that the author opines, inter
alia, on an understanding of faith and salvation in terms of health. In addition, but
rather a side-effect, the references to the cult of Artemis in de virginum morbis
should be mentioned, which was quite popular at the time of the author of the
Pastoral letters (in particular, as some scholars argue) in Ephesus, 25 a fact that is
buttressed by the mention of expensive clothes of women in 1Tim 2:9 (ὡσαύτως
γυναῖκας … μὴ ἐν … ἱματισμῷ πολυτελεῖ) as well as in the Hippocratic treatise
(see above: τὰ πολυτελέστατα τῶν ἱματίων).
These structural and semantic concurrences raise the question: Is there any
imaginable setting in which the expression of 1 Tim 2:15a could be meaningfully
understood in terms of the statement in de virginum morbis?

and vexatious and unapproachable”. (my translation. Greek text from Lampros 1885, 29.31-
30.1) I thank Christiane Zimmermann, Berlin, for this reference.
22 For Hippocrates’ view on the sacred disease see Morb. sacr. 1: “It does not seem to me to be
more divine or more sacred than any other disease…. (οὐδέν τί μοι τῶν ἄλλων νούσων δοκέει
θειοτέρη εἶναι οὐδ’ ἱερωτέρη)”. (my translation. Greek text from Littré [1979, 352,1-2]).
23 ‘Mythical’ is used here as a form of cognition, as it is employed by Cassirer (1925).
24 This aspect is, however, related to the direct competition between doctors and manteis (as
well as among those of the same profession), which “seems to have been the norm in Greek
medicine” (King 2002, 83). She explains (2002, 83-84): “Each individual had to persuade his
patient that, of all the available therapies, his was the best … and to this is related the
emphatic use of the first person in these texts: ‘But I say…’ … This suggests that the
condemnation of dedications to Artemis should be taken, not as a simple opposition between
‘scientific’ and ‘religious’ healers, but as the product of a period in which competition for the
existing clientele was intense…”.
25 For Artemis as an important cult in Ephesus see Hodgin Gritz (1991, 36-42), Clark
Kroeger/Clark Kroeger (1998, 52-54); Trebilco (2004, 19-30, esp. 21-22) and Towner (2006,
37); dissenting Baugh (1995).
FUHRMANN Saved by Childbirth 37

To answer this question, we must broaden our perspective in two directions.

Firstly, it must be demonstrated against which type of backdrop the therapy
proposed by Hippocrates should be understood. Therefore, we will consider the
understanding of the female body in antiquity. Secondly, and connected to the first
answer, we will indicate the manner in which links between female corporeality
and spirituality left their traces in early Christian literature, especially within
literature usually labelled as gnostic. The results of these considerations will enable
us to reconstruct a framework in which the meaning of 1 Tim 2:15a becomes

2.3 Broader perspective I: the female body and the womb in antiquity
As is well known, the description of the female physis in antiquity consists of
statements of imperfection, insofar as this is always deduced from a comparison
with the male body. 26
Soranus of Ephesus (2nd century AD), for example, sums up (Gynaeciorum
… according to their physis the feminine differs from the masculine so much that
Aristotle and Zenon the Epicurean state: Incomplete is the female, but complete is
the male (ἀτελὲς μὲν εἶναι τὸ θῆλυ, τέλειον δὲ εἶναι τὸ ἄρρεν). 27
Considering the theory of imperfection with regard to the female body, one
aspect, the womb, 28 might have caused problems in terms of that system of
thought, for it is clearly an additional organ with no equivalent in the male body.
And indeed, the ancient Mediterranean had to struggle with this thinking. Traces of
this struggle can be found, for instance, in mythical masculinisations of pregnancy
and birth. 29
One of the strangest, though apparently widely accepted, solutions was to grant
the womb autonomy, as if it were an independent organism within the female
body, an idea that came to the fore in considerations about the female disease
called the wandering womb, which is prominently described by Plato Timaeus 91c:

26 Cf. Dean-Jones (1991, 113): “…Greek scientists used menstruation, breasts, womb, and lack
of body hair to define female physical nature as fundamentally different from and inferior to
the physical nature of the male…”. Towner (2006, 230), provides further examples from
Philo and rabbinic sources. For Aristotle as an important exponent of this matter see e.g.
Dean-Jones (1989, 179; 1991, 114) and Salkever (1986, 239-240).
27 My translation. The Greek text from Ilberg (1927, 95.10-12); cf. Gourevitch (1995).
28 For an overview of the impact of the ‘womb’ on ancient Mediterranean and near-eastern
mythology and iconography see Barb (1953).
29 Cf. e.g. Demand (1994, 134-135), referring to the myth of the pregnant man and to the birth
of Athena out of the head of Zeus as well as Dionysus’ birth. Demand mentions Socrates, too,
who referred to himself as midwife; see furthermore Zapperi (1991).
38 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

When the matrix or womb, as it is called […], being an indwelling creature longing
for child bearing (μῆτραί τε καὶ ὑστέραι λεγόμεναι … ζῷον ἐπιθυμητικὸν ἐνὸν τῆς
παιδοποιίας),—remains fruitless long beyond the due season, it is ill-tempered and
vexed; and wandering astray throughout the entire body (πλανώμενον πάντῃ κατὰ τὸ
σῶμα), bearing down upon the passages of the breath until there is no respiration, it
leads to utmost anxiety and all kinds of diseases—until the desire and love of each
other unites them (μέχριπερ ἂν ἑκατέρων ἡ ἐπιθυμία 30 καὶ ὁ ἔρως συναγαγόντες). 31
Here the motif of a female disease, ‘cured’ by male intervention, occurs again;
and although the matter was not undisputed, 32 several descriptions are to be found
throughout the ancient medical literature. The symptoms, by the way, are quite
similar to those described by Hippocrates concerning the sacred disease. 33

2.4 Broader perspective II: the female body and the womb in gnostic doctrines
Whether the other doctrine mentioned in 1 (and 2) Timothy can be identified with
what was known as gnosis in the 2nd and 3rd century is a matter presently being
debated. 34 Before turning to this matter, two assumptions that I share with the
majority of scholars should be pointed out. Firstly, the pastoral epistles are not of
Pauline authorship, but are rather to be reckoned among the later texts of the NT
(that places them somewhere between 100 and 150 AD). 35 Secondly, there was no

30 NB: ἐπιθυμία, as stated above, was one of the characteristics of the women who were
following the false teachers (2 Tim 3:6).
31 My translation. Greek text from Archer-Hind (1973, 340.11-18). Adair (1996, 162-163),
however, argues that Plato was not a proponent of the wandering-womb-theory and, rather,
“wanted to establish the wandering entity as the ζῷον ἐπιθυμητικόν …, a lust-based
psychological force”.
32 Soranus, in the abovementioned passage (Gynaeciorum 3.3.2-3), provides a different point of
view: while Aristotle and Zeno claimed that “… the womb is a distinct part of women (ἡ
μήτρα μέρος ἴδιον γυναικῶν), Homophiles, in his Midwifery, says that the uterus is woven
from the same things as the other parts… (τὴν ὑστέραν ἐκ τῶν αὐτῶν τοῖς ἄλλοις μέρεσι
πεπλέχθαι)…”. (my translation. Greek text from Ilberg (1927, 95.13-18).
33 Cf. Aretaeus of Cappodocia (2nd century AD) Medical Writings 2.11.1): “...and generally,
the womb is in the woman, like some organism in an organism (καὶ τὸ ξύμπαν ἐν τῇ ἀνθρώπῳ
ἐcτὶ ἡ ὑcτέρη, ὁκοῖόν τι ζῶον ἐν ζώῳ)”. My translation. Greek text from Hude (1958, 32.28-
33.1). For further evidence see the examples listed by Lefkowitz (1981) and Dean-Jones
(1989, 177 n.3; 1991, 121-123). Dean-Jones (1991, 123) states that “… even within their
rationalization the Hippocratics retain the model of the womb as a separate animal within the
woman which, without the intervention of a man (husband or doctor), is in danger of
subjugating the woman’s own life force … if it does not have its own wants satisfied.”
34 See Towner (2006, 42-43) and Hengel (1997). Some reservations with regard to an
identification are expressed by Markschies (2001, 14-15).
35 See e.g. Hengel (1997, 191) Hübner (2004, 68-69) dates the pastoral epistles to the time of
the Martyrium Polycarpi, that is ca. 150-160. He argues that these writings are all concerned
with gnostic tendencies.
FUHRMANN Saved by Childbirth 39

gnosis before Christianity (Cf. Colpe 1961). Given these preconditions, one has to
face another difficulty: in recent research the category gnosis is doubted to be
adequate to cover the different movements in early Christianity, which were
labelled by their opponents in this way. 36 Caution is therefore recommended when
concluding, from the marking γνῶσις in 1Tim 6:20, that the other teachers were
also representatives of what is labelled by modern scholars as gnosis or
gnosticism. 37 However, for the time being we concur with those who interpret the
γνῶσις in 1 Timothy as apparently referring to a “rather defined form of
Gnosticism” 38 , since certain aspects of the gnostic sources and descriptions of
early Christian heresiologists of the 2nd to 4th century AD seem to fit properly into
the construction of the dispute with which we are concerned in 1 Tim. Of course,
the remaining traces of that dispute in our sources do not fit all dimensions of
definitions provided for a gnostic doctrine. 39 As a general category for what is to
be understood as gnosis we take the broad definition of Towner, for whom gnosis
is a “knowledge, which released the soul from enslavement to the material world”
(Towner 1987, 104).
Returning to our considerations concerning the female body, it is conspicuous
that the motif of the womb occurs relatively often in gnostic doctrines, mostly con-
nected with descriptions of creation. Due to the well known negative attitude of the
gnostics regarding creation, it is no wonder that the womb plays a rather
depreciatory role. Noteworthy is the strong link between those references and the
description of genealogies that were also quite prominent in gnostic writings (cf.
Hengel 1997, 190 n. 1).
In Adversos Haereses (1.31.1) Irenaeus describes the doctrine of the Cainites,
stating that they say
… that Cain (is a descendant) of a superior principality, and they confess that Esau,
Core, the Sodomites and all of the same kidney are their relatives…
Irenaeus continues (1.31.2.):

36 See e.g. Williams (1996), who radically critizises the use of ‘gnosis’ and ‘gnosticism’ as
categories of scientific discourse.
37 See thereto Kaiser (2003). I would like to thank her for the insights she shared with me
regarding her special field of research. See furthermore Markschies (2001, esp. 26-35).
38 Cf. Towner (1987, 104), Rudolph (1983, 303), calling it a “strange mixture of gnostic
doctrines and Jewish piety, a Jewish-Christian form of Gnosis” and Schmithals (1987, 115):
“a Jewish-Christian Gnosis in the broadest sense”. Hengel (1997, 223) argues, tentatively,
that the influence of Gnostic ideas in Christianity can be assumed to have started ‘shortly
after 100 AD’, the ‘other doctrine’ mentioned in the pastoral epistles, which he dates around
110 AD, could therefore indeed refer to a gnostic group (1997, 190-191.223).
39 For those aspects see firstly, Clement, Exc. 78,2 (GCS III, 131, 17-19); furthermore the
‘typological model’ of Markschies (2001, 25-26).
40 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

I have also collected their writings, in which they appeal to dissolve the works of the
Womb (opera Hysterae). But Womb (Hystera) they call the maker of heaven and
earth. 40
Hippolytus, in his Refutatio omnium Haeresium (5.19.11f.), is concerned with
the doctrine of the Sethians, who claim that
The shape of heaven and earth is very similar to a womb (τὸ σχῆμα τοιοῦτον οἱονεὶ
μήτρᾳ) 41
In the following chapter (5.20.4-6) Hippolytus explains:
Their entire teaching of the word, however, [is derived] from the ancient
theologians… For their doctrine about the Womb (τῆς μήτρας … λόγος) and
serpents and (the) navel … stems from Orpheus, because prior to the Eleusinian
mysteries, in Phlium there were the orgies of the so called ‘Great [Mother?]’ (τὰ τῆς
λεγομένης Μεγάλης ὄργια). 42
Epiphanius of Salamis describes the Nicolaites in his Panarion 25.5.1-3,
offering a genealogy closely linked to the Womb in their teachings:
… that there were darkness, depth and water; the spirit, however, between those
[…]. But darkness was provoked and indignant at the spirit, started up, cast around
the spirit and begot, they say, something called ‘Womb’ (τινὰ Μήτραν καλουμένην),
who, after she was born, longed for the spirit itself. Out of the Womb (ἐκ δὲ τῆς
Μήτρας) certain four Aions were emitted […]. But after all these a certain ugly Aion
was emitted; this one had intercourse with the Womb (μεμίχθαι δὲ τοῦτον τῇ
Μήτρᾳ) […], and out of this ugly Aion and of the Womb (καὶ ἐκ τούτου τοῦ αἰῶνος
τοῦ αἰσχροῦ καὶ τῆς Μήτρας) gods and angels and demons and seven spirits came
into being. 43
Besides other references to the Womb and its genesis, 44 an adaptation of the
motif of the wandering womb is also to be found in the Nag-Hammadi writing
The Expository Treatise on the Soul, where the soul’s nature is described as

40 My translation. The Latin text from Brox (1993, 350.12-14 and 352.1-3) The Greek text is to
be found in Epiphanius’ Pan. (38.1.6.), where he states: … ἣν Ὑστέραν τὸν ποιητὴν τοῦ
παντὸς τούτου κύτους οὐρανοῦ τε καὶ γῆς καλοῦσι (Holl 1922, 63.15-64.1).
41 My translation. The Greek text from Wendland (1916, 118.17. A summary of this statement
also occurs in Hippolytus’ Haer. 10.11.6-8 (see Wendland 1916, 271.20-27).
42 My translation. The Greek text from Wendland (1916, 121.21-122.2).
43 My translation. Greek text from Holl (1915, 272.19-273.8). See also Williams (1987, 80).
44 See e.g. the Nag Hammadi writings Ap. John II,5.5; Pr. Thanks. V, 64.25-27; Paraph. Shem
VII,4.22-24 and Testim.Truth IX,31.1-5.
FUHRMANN Saved by Childbirth 41

She even has her womb (mytra) (p. 127.22) … But when she fell down into a
body … she prostituted herself and gave herself to one and all... As long as the soul
keeps running about everywhere copulating with whomever she meets … But when
she ... weeps before the father and repents, then the father will have mercy on her
and he will make her womb turn from the external domain and will again turn it
inward, so that the soul will regain her proper character. …. So when the womb of
the soul, by the will of the father, turns itself inward, it is baptized and is
immediately cleansed of the external pollution which was pressed upon it… 45
Consequently we can assert: All motifs of the ideology mentioned and opposed
by the author of 1 Timothy can be discovered in gnostic writings and systems;
myths of creation as well as genealogies. The womb represents a central motif of
some of these myths and is understood as the instigator of desire, which could have
led to certain rites of chastity in order to handle this longing (cf. Bassler 1988, 46-
47). Furthermore it is conceivable that the author of 1 Timothy referred to a
religious image associated with ἡ Μήτρα as old womanish (1 Tim 4:7: γραώδης).
One might even see a relationship between the title ‘the Great Mother’ for Artemis
of Ephesus and the ‘other doctrine’ taught in Timothy’s congregation thereat (see
Gritz 1991, 34-42; Clark Kroeger/Clark Kroeger 1998, 93.193-194; dissenting
Baugh 1995, esp. 16-20).

3. Power-play in Ephesus: Placing the Intention of 1 Tim 2:15a

As stated above, it is largely the unusual phrasing in 1 Tim 2:15a that renders this
portion so extraordinary. Against the backdrop of the gnostic imagery related to the
womb, the ancient understanding of the nature and function of the womb and the
utterances by Hippocrates concerning the healing of a female (womb-related)
disease, we are enabled to reconstruct the framework in which the statement: [ἡ δὲ
γυνὴ] … σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας becomes explicable. Two conditions
must be taken into consideration.
The first is concerned with the other teachers and their doctrine, against which
the author of 1Tim warns. Bearing in mind the other indications of the false
doctrine listed above (2.1), let us consider the clues in 2 Tim 3:6, where the author
explains that the followers of the false teachers were, amongst others,
young women, overwhelmed by sins and swayed by irrational lust (γυναικάρια
σεσωρευμένα ἁμαρτίαις, ἀγόμενα ἐπιθυμίαις ποικίλαις).

45 Translation by Robinson (in Layton 1989, 144-147). For further details on the disputed
authorship and period of origin see the commentary by Kulawik (2006), whom I thank for
making her manuscript available to me when I was in South Africa. Further adaptations of
these motifs are listed by Fredriksen (1979, 288-289) and Onuki (2000).
42 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Provided the false doctrine mentioned in 1 and 2 Timothy is the same, the
question can be asked, what motivations could have caused those women to leave
their church and to join the other teachers? Ignoring the critique and prejudice of
some of the Church Fathers 46 it is inviting to assume that the other teachers
recommended chastity as a constituent component of the way to salvation. The
irrational lust hereby reminds one of the symptoms of the wandering womb as well
as the description of Sophia’s search for her heavenly Father (see above). The
other doctrine, therefore, seems to have taught chastity, as well as other dealings
with corporeality (cf. 1 Tim 4:3, cf. above), as a means to cope with and overcome
irrational lust in order to live a certain form of spiritual life. One could even
assume that the other teachers, and in their wake, the women concerned, could
have interpreted this irrational lust as an unique female indicator and an expression
of a yearning for salvation. 47
The answer of the author of 1 Timothy to those attempts can be found in 1 Tim
2:15a: salvation will come by childbearing. It becomes clear that the author is not
willing to accept a particular female way of dealing with corporeality, but intends
to refer to the solution appropriate to the sound/ healthy doctrine: that is not to
respond to irrational lust with chastity, but with childbirth and a ‘housewifely’
conduct. It is not an indicator of a spiritual yearning, but a result of Eve’s seduction
(cf. 1 Tim 2:13).
Secondly, the argumentation of 1 Tim 2:15a, as well as some other portions
within the Pastoral Epistles, turns out to form part of an ideological power play
within Christian congregations of the early and middle second century.
Endeavouring to (re-) establish the relative strength of patriarchy, parts of 1 (and 2)
Timothy can be regarded as a ‘swinging back’, opposing developments in the
Church recorded, for example, in passages such as Act 2:17-18, Gal 3:27-28; Rom
16:1.3.7 or Col 4:15, as well as in other testimonies of the past (cf. thereto Eisen
2000). Besides 1 Tim 2:15a and the preceding verses concerned with the
instructions for women in terms of proper clothing, submissive behaviour and the
prohibition to teach (1 Tim 2:9-14), this ‘power play’ left its traces, for instance, in
1 Tim 5:14-15, where the author states:
So I would have younger [women or widows, here only: νεωτέρας, but the context
concerns widows—sf.] marry, bear children, and manage their households (γαμεῖν,
τεκνογονεῖν, οἰκοδεσποτεῖν), so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us.
For some have already turned away to follow Satan.

46 Cf. e.g. Irenaeus’ description of the Markosians in Haer. 1.13.2-7 (Brox 1993, 218-227) and
thereto Förster (1999, 91-96). The Markosians were accused of relating their missionary
attempts to sexual seduction.
47 Towner (1987, 109) however, questions whether the indications of the text allow the
conclusion that the “false teachers made special efforts to win women converts” and “that
they then set them free to teach the false doctrine…”.
FUHRMANN Saved by Childbirth 43

This passage offers the same pattern of argumentation as that of 1 Tim 2:15a.
Only by marriage, childbirth and by means of submissive and domestic conduct,
women would be able to withstand the temptations of Satan. That is, only men can
guarantee salvation for women.
The portion concerned with salvation by childbirth proves to be, among the
traces of the power play of gender roles remaining in early Christian writings, one
of the more aggressive ones. This comes to the fore particularly in the use of σῴζω
in a sense without any reference to the salvific acting of God in Christ, but merely
to nature and work, which could even be termed sarcastic. With its strong and
exclusive reference to the female body, and its narrowing down to what one could
almost call this body’s biologistic function, 1 Tim 2:15 stresses the impossibility of
any genuine female spiritual approach 48 and emphasises the complete reliance on
male mediation.

4. Conclusion
Saved by childbirth… It could be demonstrated that, assuming the presence of
echoes of popular medical advice in this statement, a setting might be
reconstructed within which one could understand this statement in a meaningful
way without changing the usual meaning of the lexemes. 1 Tim 2:15a could be
localised within two discourses. It forms part of the power play within Timothy’s
congregation concerned with the false teachers, as well as of the broader power
play concerned with the role of women in the Church within a patriarchal society.
The traces found in the Pastorals suggest that women in particular were
attracted by the doctrine of the other teachers. Owing to certain prescriptions
concerned with the body within the γνῶσις taught by the other teachers it is not out
of place to, furthermore, assume that there was some relation to the female body.
Moreover gnostic teachings, witnessed by (admittedly later) gnostic sources as
well as by their opponents, were concerned with certain aspects of female
corporeality, namely with the womb. Some of these, however, draw their
metaphorical illustrations quite certainly from the popular assumption of the
ancients, that the womb (as an independent being within the female body) causes
temptations and seductions. The other doctrine was most likely related to those
ideas, propagating a conduct characterised by chastity and certain rules of
nutrition. The dominant, patriarchal ideology rejected those attempts, insisting on
traditional understandings of gender roles in the Church and assigning their place
to women in a sarcastic manner: Their salvation is granted by submission to men.

48 Consequently there are structural analogies of the manner in which the Hippocratic
physicians attempt to impose rationality instead of possibly genuine female and mythical
approaches to corporeality and spirituality, see above.
44 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

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Testament and Gnosis. Edited by Alastair H.B. Logan and Alexander J.M.
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Eerdmanns [NICNT 16/17].
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Mark D. Mathews
Durham University

This study applies the linguistic argument from the Synoptic Tradition to the parallel
material of 2 Peter and Jude. Matthew and Luke’s corrections of Mark’s poor
grammar and word choice have been used extensively in Synoptic studies to argue
for the priority of Mark’s gospel. In contrast to previous studies, this essay is not
concerned with issues concerning authorship and does not argue for the genuineness
of either epistle. Rather, it calls into question the methods for determining priority
based on issues of authorship and seeks to provide empirical evidence by examining
the Greek grammar, structure, and vocabulary between the two letters. While
previous studies have examined these categories independent of one another, no
study has applied them to 2 Peter and Jude based on arguments employed in
Synoptic studies; that is, whether one author has improved on the other.

1. Introduction
Discussions concerning the literary relationship between 2 Peter and Jude are
invariably bound up in views related to authorship. Ironically, those who propose
the authenticity of 2 Peter demonstrate how the author of Jude borrowed from him
(Spitta 1885, 382-92; Bigg 1901, 216-24; Wallace, 2008), while those who argue
for its inauthenticity demonstrate the opposite (Abbott 1882a, 204-19; Mayor 1907,
i-xxv; Bauckham 1983, 141-43; Kraus 2001, 368-76). 2 These antithetical

1 I would like to thank Dr. Daniel B. Wallace for suggesting this study as a research project for
my Th.M. thesis and for his patience and guidance along the way. Any omissions or errors,
however, are my own.
2 Recent scholars have attempted to reconcile this by accepting the priority of Jude while
maintaining genuineness of 2 Peter (Davids 2006, 12; Green 2008, 17). However, these
studies also hold to an early date for Jude based on this view without sufficiently answering
objections. For example, Schreiner (2003, 409) states that the date of 2 Peter is not
determinative for the date of Jude and considers whether one can date it anywhere between
60-80 CE. Yet, the latter date, one more probable for Jude, would pose significant problems
for 2 Peter’s dependence while maintaining its genuineness. One can detect the need to
remove the argument of literary relationship from issues related to authorship and date.
Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 47-66
© New Testament Society of South Africa
48 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

conclusions highlight the subjective nature of previous approaches and the need to
divorce concerns over authorship from the debate. Previous studies have focused
on the literary relationship between these two letters but have been negligible on
two fronts: (1) the parallel material is examined only after a decision has been
made as to the direction of dependence and, thus, used to strengthen an already
formed conclusion rather than to determine one. (2) In the history of NT
scholarship no study has compared the Greek grammar and syntax of 2 Peter and
Jude as a basis for establishing which is more likely to have given rise to the
other. 3 Bauckham’s (1983, 143) remarks in his excellent commentary testify to this
effect. He states:
One may produce—as I hope this commentary does produce—a convincing
interpretation of 2 Peter’s use of Jude, but one cannot be quite sure that an
equally convincing interpretation of Jude’s use of 2 Peter is impossible. No one
since Spitta and Bigg has attempted it, but the analogy with Synoptic criticism
perhaps suggests that their view may be ripe for revival.
Here, he recognizes the subjectivity in making a determination on the direction
of dependence. What are needed are objective criteria by which one can measure
the degree to which one author may have borrowed from the other. Moreover,
Bauckham suggests an already widely accepted method for determining such
relationships that has yet to be tested on these two NT documents; the analogy of
the Synoptic tradition. The present study’s contribution, then, is in applying this
analogy to the synoptic material in 2 Peter and Jude.

2. The Analogy
One of the strongest arguments for Markan priority is the argument from grammar.
Not a few NT scholars have noted the corrections by Matthew and Luke of Mark’s
grammatical peculiarities in the synoptic material. Edwin Abbott, one of 2 Peter’s
fiercest critics, supplied an extensive list of grammatical corrections arguing for the
priority of Mark (Abbott 1901). John Hawkins (1899), Burnett Streeter (1924), and
more recently Robert Stein (2001), argued powerfully for the priority of Mark
based on the argument from grammar. All of these scholars supply, as a basis for
Markan priority, the grammatical peculiarities that appear to be corrected by
Matthew and Luke in parallel passages. Scot McKnight has noted, “The

3 Spitta, Mayor, Bigg, et al., have used subjective criteria such as shifts in theological thought,
ordering of and length of material, and the likelihood of whether a well known apostle such
as Peter would copy from Jude, to establish the direction of dependence. More recent
commentators have built on these assumptions based on rhetorical and literary criticism but
have offered no new empirical evidence to strengthen these arguments. More recently Lauri
Thurén (2004, 457-459) has argued for the priority of Jude based on the reception and
development of rhetorical conventions between the two letters.
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 49

foundational argument for Markan priority is the linguistic argument; it is the only
argument with probative and decisive force” (McKnight 2001, 83). The following
examples highlight the proposed analogy:

Mark 4:31-32 Matthew 13:31 Luke 13:19

ὡς κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃς κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃν κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃν
ὅταν σπαρῇ ἐπὶ. τῆς γῆς λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔσπειρεν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔλαβεν
μικρότερον ὂν πάντων ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ αὐτοῦ εἰς κῆπον ἑαυτοῦ
τῶν σπερμάτων τῶν ἐπὶ
τῆς γῆς καὶ ὅταν σπαρῇ

Note Mark’s awkward placement of the expression “which is the smallest of all
seeds” (μικρότερον ὃν πάντων τῶν σπερμάτων) and the repetitious phrases “on the
earth” (ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς) and “when it is sown” (καὶ ὅταν σπαρῇ). These have been
corrected in both Matthew and Luke’s accounts.

Mark 13:19 Matthew 24:21 Luke 21:23

ἔσονται γὰρ αἱ ἡμέραι ἔσται γὰρ τότε θλῖψις ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις
ἐκεῖναι θλῖψις … μεγάλη … ἔσται γὰρ ἀνάγκη μεγάλη…

Mark’s poor construction of a plural verb to modify the phrase “in those days”
(αἱ ἡμέραι ἐκεῖναι) is avoided by Matthew and Luke. This makes the noun
“tribulation” (θλῖψις) a predicate nominative giving the rendering “those days will
be tribulation.” Matthew has avoided the phrase “in those days” (αἱ ἡμέραι ἐκεῖναι)
altogether replacing it with τότε. He and Luke both use a singular substantive
“great tribulation” (θλῖψις μεγάλη) and “great distress” (ἀνάγκη μεγάλη)
respectively, with the singular copula ἔσται. This is grammatically superior and
gives the more natural sense “there will be great tribulation”.

Mark 5:23 Matthew 9:18 Luke 8:42

λέγων ὅτι τὸ θυγάτριόν λέγων ὅτι ἡ θυγάτηρ … καὶ αὐτὴ ἀπέθνῃσκεν
μου ἐσχάτως ἔχει μου ἄρτι ἐτελεύτησεν

Here Mark uses a phrase that was condemned by the ancient grammarian
Phrynichus, although it was considered allowable as ἐσχάτως φιλόσοφος “the end
of wisdom” or ἐσχάτως πονηρός “the end of wickedness” (Lobeck 1820, 389).
Rutherford comments, “Good writers avoid the adverb, even in the sense permitted
by Phrynichus” (Rutherford 1881, 481). This suggests that the Greek of Mark’s
gospel tends to be a more vulgar use of Koine while Matthew and Luke are more
literary (Wallace 1997, 30). Both have replaced the term.
50 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Mark 2:18 Matthew 9:14 Luke 5:33

Καὶ ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ Τότε προσέρχονται αὐτῷ Οἱ δὲ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν,
Ἰωάννου καὶ οἱ Φαπισαῖοι οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου
νηστεύοντες καὶ ἔρχονται λέγοντες, διὰ τί ἡμεῖς καὶ νηστεύουσιν πυκνὰ καὶ
καὶ λέγουσιν αύτῷ, διὰ τί οἱ Φαπισαῖοι νηστεύομεν δεήσεις ποιοῦνται ὁμοίως
οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου καὶ [πολλά] οἱ δὲ μαθηταί καὶ οἱ τῶν Φαρισαίων
οἱ μαθηταὶ τῶν Φαρισαίων σου οὐ νηστεύουσιν οἱ δὲ σοὶ ἐσθίουσιν καὶ
νηστεύουσιν, οἱ δὲ σοὶ πίνουσιν.
μαθηταὶ οὐ νηστεύουσιν

Here Mark repeats the information in the narrative setting with the question
from the crowds. Matthew and Luke avoid this pleonastic style, both here and in
the verse that follows, where Mark has Jesus answer his own rhetorical question.

Mark 6:39-40 Matthew 14:19 Luke 9:14

ἐπέταξεν αὐτοῖς ἀνακλῖναι κελεύσας τοὺς ὄχλους κατακλίνατε αὐτοὺς κλισίας
πάντας συμπόσια συμπόσια… ἀνακλιθῆναι ἐπὶ τοῦ [ὡσεὶ] ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα.
ἀνέπεσαν πρασιαὶ πρασιαὶ… χόρτου

This final example demonstrates the correction of Mark’s tautologous phrases

συμπόσια συμπόσια and πρασιαὶ πρασιαὶ “in groups”, which represent
“distributive doubling.” This usage is not the same as the rhetorical
“epanadiplosis” which provides emphasis, but is considered a vulgar use of Koine
(BDF §493[2]). This has been corrected by both Matthew and Luke.
These examples represent only a few of the many instances in which Matthew
and Luke have improved Mark’s poor grammar and style. If these kinds of
grammatical corrections argue so strongly for Markan priority, what does this have
to say about 2 Peter and Jude? Any student of 2 Peter is aware of its poor grammar
and style in relation to Jude’s relatively good Greek, polished style and tight
structure. In light of the similarities between this and the Synoptic tradition, this
essay will provide similar examples from the parallel passages in Jude and 2 Peter
in order to demonstrate the same phenomenon that occurs between the Synoptic
Gospels. While it is acknowledged that the data is considerably smaller in this
case, which precludes any unyielding claims, enough data exist to test this analogy
and see whether it is possible to infer that Jude has, in fact, improved 2 Peter’s
Greek by making corrections relating to structure, grammar, and vocabulary. Two
working assumptions that underlie this study are Markan priority and the literary
integrity of 2 Peter.
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 51

3. The Case for 2 Peter’s Greek

Some have suggested that the author of 2 Peter deliberately chose to write in a
more flowery style, seeing the rather plain style of Jude. Others have argued that
the writer is following the conventions of the Asiatic or grand style. Though it is
impossible to know what the writer deliberately did or did not do, we can rely on
the testimony of Greek grammarians concerning the quality of the writer’s Greek
and we can examine the effect an Asiatic or grand style might have contributed in
this regard.
It is evident that the author of 2 Peter employs long, cumbersome sentences,
overuses favourite terms, and is generally repetitive throughout the epistle. He
demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Greek article, and uses participles
inconsistently, leaving some with no apparent connection to any finite verb
(Wallace 2008). These peculiarities have been noted in a variety of ways. Edwin
Abbott certainly overstated the case by labelling it “Baboo Greek … a vulgar
pomposity, and verbose pedantry” (Abbott 1882a, 215). Mayor (1907, lx) referred
to the author’s style as “defective” while Howard stated it was indicative of one
who had “learned mainly from books” and was “employed with the uneasy touch
of one who acquired the language later in life” (MHT 1920, 2.5) Robertson (1934,
126) noted “2 Peter has a certain roughness of style” and Wallace (2008) calls it
“relatively poor Greek” with an “impoverished style”. Turner (MHT 1976, 4.142)
said the author’s long sentences “tend toward ambiguity” and it has been called “a
somewhat artificial piece of rhetoric” (Chase 1963, 805). These same scholars
recognize Jude’s Greek as being tightly structured and dignified, with a good
command of vocabulary and demonstrating “a real mastery of the current Greek”
(Bauckham 1983, 142; Robertson 1934, 145) Thus, the consensus in modern
scholarship, especially as regards grammarians, is that 2 Peter employs poor Greek
grammar and style. This is especially true in relation to the epistle of Jude.
There are dissenting views, however, that have attempted to categorize 2
Peter’s Greek as Asian rhetoric (Reicke 1964, 146-47; Bauckham 1983, 137) while
others have suggested the author is following the Greco-Roman conventions of the
grand style (Watson 1988, 145-46; cf. Neyrey 1993, 118-20). These arguments
have been offered as an explanation for the differences in structure and style
between 2 Peter and Jude and as a means to substantiate the priority of Jude.
Reicke and Bauckham both acknowledge the long elaborate sentences in 2
Peter and attribute this to the Asiatic style. “Asianism” was not so much a style as
it was a pejorative term for Greek Hellenistic writing that showed a lack of
restraint or inability to use sententious phrases (Quintilian, 12.10.16-19; Cicero
Bru. 325). Moreover, it was sometimes characterized by its use of truncated
sentences and overuse of artificial expressions (Wifstrand 2005, 87). Thus, the
term was used to describe that kind of writing that was ‘non-Attic.’
Correspondingly, 2 Peter could be considered Asian rhetoric. However, Asian style
52 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

is also characterised as being inflated and hollow, abounding in figurative language

(Quintilian, 12.10.16-17). In this sense, 2 Peter is far from Asian. Its message is
serious and pointed and there is little difference between his use of tropes and
figures than we find in Jude. To be sure, Jude’s figures are normally more
developed. Thus, Watson (1988, 145-46) has correctly pointed out that “2 Peter
does not fit either of Cicero’s definitions of Asianism” and “is not the best example
of Asian style.” He suggests 2 Peter is written in the grand style, which is
characterized by powerful thought, the use of impressive words being carefully
selected, an abundance of figures of speech, and a vigorous style (cf. Cic. Or. 5.20;
Quint. 12.10.58-62; Her. 4.8.11).
Though the epistle does have emotional appeal, few have categorized its style
as “vigorous”, and while it demonstrates an abundance of amplification, this
feature is not exclusive to the grand style. This assessment is only accurate if one
can determine that Greco-Roman rhetorical conventions are being followed.
Watson rightly admits, however, that “borrowing of sequential material is unlikely,
if rhetorical conventions are carefully observed.” Given the fact that 2 Peter and
Jude share considerable sequential material it is possible to suggest that these
conventions are not being followed. Moreover, if 2 Peter is the borrower, these
same critiques could be made of Jude, yet nowhere in scholarship are these claims
put forward. This is surprising since commentators frequently note that there is
very little difference in content between 2 Pet 2:1-3:3 and Jude 4-18.
Historically, the reaction of the Atticists against Asian rhetoric surfaced
between the second and first centuries B.C.E. and Asianism appears to have waned
by the late first century B.C.E. Wifstrand (2005, 87) notes, “It was simply not the
time for practical oratory in the grand style” (1st cent C.E.) and “only in dinner
speeches and the like could one excel”. He goes on to say, “As far as we can judge
from the very few fragments left, this Asianic rhetoric was fairly closely related to
Hellenistic normal prose in its choice of words, phrases, and syntactic
constructions . . . and hardly had as great an influence as the violent attacks by its
later opponents make it appear”. 4 Moreover, the categories of “Asiatic” or the
“grand style” offer no explanation for the poor grammar that is characteristic of the
epistle since the Asian style “in grammar and choice of words . . . followed the
rules of the classicist” (Wifstrand 1948, 219).
This being the case, 2 Peter’s style, be it Asian or the grand style, does not
provide an answer for the differences in grammar between 2 Peter and Jude nor
does it take into account which would be more likely to have given rise to the
other. Moreover, since the grammatical argument is so readily accepted among NT
scholars regarding the priority of Mark, it is only proper to apply these same

4 Italics added.
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 53

criteria to 2 Peter and Jude. We will now do so based on the categories used in
synoptic studies: grammar, structure, and vocabulary.

3.1 Evidence based on grammar

3.1.1 2 Peter 2:4—Jude 6

2 Peter 2:4 Jude 6
Εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν
οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ
ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν ἴδιον οἰκητήριον εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης
τηρουμένους ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον

Two difficulties are noteworthy in 2 Peter’s account. First, the participle

τηρουμένους “for the purpose of being kept” is in the accusative, which is not
grammatically cohesive with the genitive ἀγγέλων, the substantive to which it
refers. Of more significance is the fact that τηρουμένους is an adverbial participle
indicating purpose, yet it is in the passive voice, which is quite unusual. Telic
participles emphasize the “actor” of the verb to which they relate rather than the
action or the one being acted upon (Wallace 1997, 636). Thus we have the very
awkward rendering, “he gave them over to judgment for the purpose of being
kept.” This use of the passive gives the impression that being kept in chains is the
judgment of the angels, when in reality they are being kept in chains until the
judgment takes place. Again, one can make sense of the sentence, but it is
indicative of 2 Peter’s often difficult and confusing use of the language.
Jude, on the other hand, has agreement throughout. First, in the phrase “the
angels who did not keep their original state” (ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν
ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν), the substantival participle and the noun “angels” are both in the
accusative masculine plural. Second, he avoids the passive participle τηρουμένους
in favour of the perfect active τετήρηκεν “he has kept” (cf. Spitta 1885, 136-37). 5
And third, Jude’s phrase “unto judgment of the Great Day” (εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης
ἡμέρας) could be a clarification of 2 Peter’s more generic expression “unto
judgment” (εἰς κρίσιν). When these parallels are compared, it is hard to imagine
that 2 Peter, having before him Jude’s sentence, would deliberately or otherwise
lose grammatical concord between the participle and the substantive to which it
relates and deliberately change Jude’s perfect active verb τετήρηκεν into a passive
participle indicating purpose, a usage far outside the general trend. While this is

5 Like most of the early commentators, he notes that Jude has corrected Peter’s peculiar
theology rather than noting the difference in grammar. The criteria of discerning whether one
has corrected theology is too subjective.
54 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

not beyond the realm of possibility, one wonders why an author, who demonstrates
the desire to write eloquently, would deliberately do such harm to a well-structured
piece such as Jude. One can posit reasons why one author may rework material to
suit his own purposes, but to suppose that one author would deliberately change
good grammar to bad is far less plausible.
The second difficulty involves the rare term σειραῖς for “chains” in comparison
to Jude’s δεσμοῖς. While a discussion of the textual variants will follow, it is
necessary to first point out a different issue. Here σειραῖς is used with a rare
genitive of place ζόφου, which gives the rendering “chains in hell.” In such usage,
the genitive substantive “indicates the place within which the verb to which it is
related occurs” (Wallace 1997, 124; BDF §186). Of the five occurrences of ζόφος
“gloom” in the NT, four are in 2 Peter and Jude, occurring twice in each letter.
Through the Hellenistic period it was used to refer not only to the gloom of the
netherworld but to the very region itself (BDAG, 429). This is confusing when
used with the participle ταρταρώσας, 6 which also indicates a place. Ταρταρώσας
being an attendant circumstance participle, gives the rendering, “he committed
them to chains in hell while casting them into Tartarus.” This presents one of two
problems. Either Tartarus and hell are the same place, which is a redundancy and
thus a clumsy word choice, or they are two separate places and he has committed
them to chains in one place while casting them into another, thus they are in two
places at one time.
Jude lacks this difficulty. He uses the accusative ζόφον with the preposition ὑπὸ
and lacks any reference to Tartarus. Thus his text is rendered, “He has kept them
in eternal chains under darkness (ὑπὸ ζόφον) of the nether regions” (BDAG, 429) a
much clearer expression. It becomes possible then to infer that Jude has improved
on 2 Peter in areas of grammar and vocabulary in an effort to provide clarity.

3.1.2 2 Peter 2:6—Jude 7

2 Peter 2:6 Jude 7
καὶ πόλεις Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρας ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ
τεφρώσας [καταστποφῇ] κατέκρινεν αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις
ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβέ[σ]ιν ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω
τεθεικώς, σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς
αἰωνίου δίκην ὑπέχουσαι.

Two things are readily noticeable in this text. First, 2 Peter lacks any mention to
the surrounding cities that Jude references. The biblical tradition notes four cities

6 “Tartarus was thought of by the Greeks as a subterranean place lower than Hades where
divine punishment was meted out, and so regarded in Israelite apocalyptic as well” (BDAG,
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 55

while Wisdom of Solomon notes five (Deut 29:23; Wis 10:6). Kraus’ remarks are
negligible here, though he thinks the shorter account is prior (Kraus 2001, 370-71).
Yet his working presupposition is revealed in this suggestion. If we look at the
Synoptic tradition we find a parallel where Matthew and Luke correct Mark’s
reference of “Herod the king” to “Herod the Tetrarch”. 7 Moreover, 2 Peter’s
account also includes the long digression about Lot that is absent in Jude. We can
see in Kraus’ position the underlying assumption that the priority of Mark’s gospel
rests in its brevity in comparison to the longer works of Matthew and Luke,
concluding that 2 Peter has expanded Jude. However, while Matthew and Luke
may be longer documents, in the actual parallel material, Mark’s stories are often
longer than Matthew and Luke’s, who have edited many of his redundancies and
difficult phrases.
The second issue deals with the very awkward phrase ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων
ἀσεβέσιν “(Spitta 1885, 152). 8 There is a variant in the text and can be translated
as either “an example to the ungodly of what is to come” or “an example to those
who are about to be ungodly”(ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβέιν). 9 The latter is
represented by the more difficult, and likely, more original reading, though the
issue is hard to decide. What is important to note for the present study, however, is
that Jude avoids the reading altogether and presents the same idea in a sententious
fashion, avoiding any glaring grammatical difficulties.

3.1.3 2 Peter 2:12-13a 10 —Jude 10

2 Peter 2:12-13a Jude 10
οὗτοι δὲ ὡς ἄλογα ζῷα γεγεννημένα οὗτοι δὲ ὅσα μὲν οὐκ οἴδασιν
φυσικὰ εἰς ἅλωσιν καὶ φθορὰν ἐν οἷς βλασφημοῦσιν, ὅσα δὲ φυσικῶς ὡς
ἀγνοοῦσιν βλασφημοῦντες, ἐν τῇ φθορᾷ τὰ ἄλογα ζῷα ἐπίστανται, ἐν τούτοις

7 Mark 6:14; Matt 14:1; Luke 3:19. This is also attested in their correction of “When Abiathar
was high priest” (Mark 2:16; Matt 12:4; Luke 6:4).
8 He notes that the writer may have had 3 Macc 2:5 in mind here, which reads παράδειγμα τοῖς
ἐπιγινομένοις καταστήσας “an example to those who should come after” yet makes no
reference to the difficult grammatical construction in 2 Peter.
9 The reading ἀσεβέιν has stronger external evidence in its favour. It is supported by ‫ א‬A C Ψ
33 1739 M latt. This reading is well attested by Alexandrian text types and can be dated to
the second century. It also has good geographical distribution as it is supported by the entire
Latin tradition. Internally, the verb μελλόντων anticipates the complementary infinitive
ἀσεβέιν. However, the term ἀσεβής as an infinitive occurs nowhere else in the NT or the
entire OT pseudepigraha. It occurs only three times in the LXX (2 Macc 4:17; Job 10:2; Sir
15:20), though never with the verb μέλλω. This is a further indication that ἀσεβέιν is the
harder reading and has given rise to ἀσεβέσιν.
10 The phrase ἀδικούμενοι μισθὸν ἀδκίας in 13a likely belongs to the previous verse [2:12] (See
Skehan 1960, 169-70).
56 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

αὐτῶν καὶ φθαρήσονται ἀδικούμενοι φθείρονται.

μισθὸν ἀδικίας.

This parallel demonstrates 2 Peter’s use of superfluous information and his

pleonastic style. He employs the term φθείρω “destroy” and its cognates three
times in one sentence, uses the dative pronominal ἐν οἷς, with βλασφημέω leaving
it with no clear antecedent, 11 and uses a double Hebraism, which is vague and
confusing. Not one of these elements is present in the parallel of Jude 10. Mayor
even notes that Jude’s account is “far simpler and more natural” (Mayor 1907, 130;
cf. Bigg 1901, 231). 12 Moreover, with regard to 2 Peter’s Hebraisms he comments
that the parallel in Jude is “much more correct,” yet he provides no explanation for
why 2 Peter has changed this more natural and correct grammar into his difficult
construction. Jude lacks both Hebraisms, “they will be destroyed in their
destruction” (ἐν τῇ φθορᾷ αὐτῶν καὶ φθαρήσονται) and ἀδικούμενοι μισθὸν
ἀδκίας, which has been variously interpreted as “suffering the wages of
unrighteousness.” Both of these phrases have generated extensive discussion as to
their meaning since the former has no clear antecedent and the latter is confusing.
While commentators provide sustained discussions attempting to interpret them,
little conversation is provided that points out the clarity with which Jude makes the
exact same point yet maintains a well structured, grammatically correct sentence.
Jude has placed the material in a neat parallelism using the finite verb with the
neuter, indefinite, accusative object ὅσα in each. His phrase is very clear and
subsequently commentators spend much less time interpreting what the writer is
trying to say.

3.1.4 2 Peter 3:2-3—Jude 17-18

2 Peter 3:2-3 Jude 17-18

μνησθῆναι τῶν προειρημένων ῥημάτων Ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀγαπητοί, μνήσθητε τῶν
ὑπὸ τῶν ἁγίων προφητῶν καὶ τῆς τῶν ῥημάτων τῶν προειρημένων ὑπὸ τῶν
ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν ἐντολῆς τοῦ κυρίου ἀποστόλων τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησου
καὶ σωτῆρος τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες Χριστοῦ ὅτι ἔλεγον ὑμῖν [ὅτι] ἐπ’
ὅτι ἐλεύσονται ἐπ’ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐσχάτου τοῦ χρόνου ἔσονται ἐμπαῖκται
[ἐν] ἐμπαιγμονῇ ἐμπαῖκται κατὰ τὰς ἰδίας κατὰ τὰς ἑαυτῶν ἐπιθυμίας πορευόμενοι
ἐπιθυμίας αὐτῶν πορευόμενοι

11 Typically βλασφημέω is followed by the accusative (Matt 27:39; Mark 3:28; 15:29; Luke
23:39; Acts 19:37; Titus 3:2; Jas 2:7; 1 Pet 4:4; Jude 8,10; Rev 13:6; 16:9.).
12 See similar examples of this kind of editing in Mark 2:18, Matt 9:14, and Luke 5:33; Mark
2:19-20, Matt 9:15.
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 57

In 2 Pet 3:2-3 and Jude 17-18 we see that the genitive chain in 2 Peter includes
a double genitive of possession; “of your apostles and the commandment of the
Lord and Saviour (τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν ἐντολῆς τοῦ κυρίου καὶ σωτῆρος).
This construction is very awkward and is acknowledged frequently by
commentators. Interestingly, those who hold to the priority of Jude comment on the
phrase in 2 Peter but have little to say regarding the much clearer reading in Jude.
Yet the argument from grammar seems to argue strongly for the priority of 2 Peter.
The problem arises from 2 Peter’s failure to order the sentence correctly. The
participle “spoken beforehand” (προειρημένων) is in the first attributive position,
which we find more suitably in the second attributive position in Jude. However,
this is not the primary issue. The sentence should have the prepositional phrase “by
the holy prophets” between the article and the noun, which is the normal order in
better authors (BDF §474(5); see also, MHT, 3.217.). In this kind of construction,
clarity is maintained by placing the governing genitive before the dependent
genitive (BDF §168[1]). 13 This is precisely what Jude has done throughout his
The parallel that follows, 2 Pet 3:3 and Jude 18, also demonstrates grammatical
corrections. The participle γινώσκοντες should be in the accusative to agree with
the subject of μνησθῆναι “to remember,” which is the “pure minds” (τῆν εἰλικρινῆ
διάνοιαν) of the readers (Mayor 1907, 146; Bauckham 1983, 229). 14 2 Peter also
includes the redundant phrase “by way of reminder” (ἐν ὑπομνήσει), which is
awkward when used with the infinitive “to remember” (μνησθῆναι), rendering “I
am stirring up your pure minds by way of reminder to remember.” Jude, on the
other hand, has the simple imperative, “Remember” (μνήσθητε). If 2 Peter had
Jude before him, one wonders why he would add the redundant phrase “by way of
reminder” (ἐν ὑπομνήσει) and not simply state, “I am stirring up your pure minds
to remember . . .” Again, while it is not uncommon for one author to borrow
material from another, it is quite another to take a grammatically well-structured
piece and rework it in such a way as to employ poor grammar and lose clarity to
the degree seen here. This is not to say that 2 Peter is unintelligible. It simply
suggests the same phenomenon that is seen in the Synoptic tradition where
grammatical peculiarities such as this are corrected by later authors.
This parallel also demonstrates another example of 2 Peter’s Hebraisms,
“scoffers scoffing,” (ἐμπαιγμονῇ ἐμπαῖκται), which is non-existent in Jude (MHT,

13 Blass comments that 2 Peter’s construction here is “unclear.”

14 Mayor makes numerous comments on 2 Peter’s poor grammar and Jude’s more
grammatically coherent parallels, yet never connects this with the direction of dependence.
His presupposition of Jude’s priority does not allow for this conclusion (cf. Spitta 1885, 228).
58 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

4.143). 15 As in 2:12, Jude lacks this construction and uses the simpler “there will
be scoffers” (ἔσονται ἐμπαῖκται). The author of 2 Peter also has the redundant use
of ἰδίας and αὐτῶν together, “their own desires of them” (τὰς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας
αὐτῶν). Jude’s account lacks the redundancy and uses the clearer “their own
desires” (τὰς ἑαυτῶν ἐπιθυμίας). Jude also has the subjective genitive “of
ungodliness” (τῶν ἀσεβειῶν), which gives clarity to the phrase (Bauckham 1983,
289). It is proposed that 2 Peter has omitted this phrase, even though it makes his
own point more explicit, yet with no explanation as to why the author would
intentionally make his account less clear. One wonders, even, why the author of 2
Peter, writing an impassioned letter to the Christian community to warn them about
false teachers, and using the letter of Jude to construct his message, over and again
would leave out phrases that give clarity, destroy wonderfully tight literary
structures, and employ bad grammar when he has such a fine example before him?
The opposite scenario is much easier to understand.

3.2 Evidence based on structure

First we turn our attention to the long, cumbersome, conditional sentence in 2 Pet
2:4-10a, which is notably absent from Jude 5-8. Much of the commentary that
takes place concerning these passages deals with the content and sequence of the
shared material and not a comparison of the literary structure, yet an examination
of this structure yields evidence that is more convincing. Keeping in mind the
analogy of the Synoptics, the literary structure of the Sermon on the Mount is
problematic for Matthean priority since it is difficult to understand Luke
rearranging such a well-developed piece of writing. While Matthew’s Sermon is
not to be compared to anything contained in either 2 Peter or Jude, the analogy fits
if we consider the likelihood of whether an author would destroy a tightly
structured piece of rhetoric or would correct something more loosely put together.

3.2.1 2 Peter 2:4-10a—Jude 5-8

Second Peter 2:4-10a reveals the reason for the critiques levelled at the letter’s
poor grammar and style. It consists of a long, loosely structured conditional
sentence that eventually finds its apodosis in verse nine.

2 Peter 2:4-10a Jude 5-8

4 5
Εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ Υπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας [ὑμᾶς]
ἐφείσατο ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας πάντα ὅτι ὁ κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου
παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους, 5καὶ σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας

15 Turner goes on to allude to Bigg’s thesis that this is evidence of Jude’s dependence upon 2
Peter. This same phenomenon is found in the Synoptics; Mark 6:39-40; Matt 14:19; Luke
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 59
ἀρχαίου κόσμου οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλὰ ὄγδοον ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν
Νῶε δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα ἐφύλαξεν κατακλυσμὸν ἀρχὴν ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον
κόσμῳ ἀσεβῶν ἐπάξας, 6καὶ πόλεις Σοδόμων εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ
καὶ Γομόρρας τεφρώσας [καταστροφῇ] ζόφον τετήρηκεν, 7ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ
κατέκρινεν ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεσβέ[σ]ιν περὶ αὐτας πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις
τεθεικώς, 7καὶ δίκαιον Λὼτ καταπονούμενον ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς
ὑπὸ τῆς τῶν ἀθέσμων ἐν ἀσελγείᾳ ἀναστροφῆς ἑτέρας πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου δίκην
ἐρρύσατο 8βλέμματι γὰρ καὶ ἀκοῇ ὁ δίκαιος ὑπέχουσαι. 8Ὁμοίως μέντοι καὶ οὗτοι
ἐγκατοικῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς ἡμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας ψυχὴν ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι σάρκα μὲν μιαίνουσιν
δικαίαν ἀνόμοις ἔργοις ἐβασάνιζεν, 9οἶδεν κυριότητα δὲ ἀθετοῦσιν δόξας δὲ βλασφημοῦσιν.
κύριος εὐσεβεῖς ἐκ πειρασμοῦ ῥύεσθαι, ἀδίκους
δὲ εἰς ἡμέραν κρίσεως κολαζομένους τηρεῖν,
μάλιστα δὲ τοὺς ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἐν ἐπιθυμία
μιασμοῦ πορευομένους καὶ κυριότητος

2 Peter 2:10b-11
Τολμηταὶ αὐθάδεις, δόξας οὐ τρέμουσιν βλασφη-
μοῦντες. ὅπου ἄγγελλοι ἰσχύϊ καὶ δυνάμει
μείζονες ὄντες οὐ φέρουσιν κατ᾽αὐτῶν παρὰ
κυρίου βλάσφημον κρίσιν.

The introductory protasis “if God” (Εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς) is not repeated but
introduces six protases that are paired together (Powell 2000, 335). The verbs are
paired as follows: (1) “God did not spare [the angels]” (οὐκ ἐφείσατο) is paired
with (2) “but he committed them [to pits of darkness]” (παρέδωκεν), (3) “He did
not spare [the ancient world]” (οὐκ ἐφείσατο) is paired with (4) “but he protected
[Noah],” (ἐφύλαξεν), and (5) “he condemned [Sodom and Gomorrah]”
(κατέκρινεν) is paired with (6) “he rescued [Lot]” (ἐρρύσατο). One will notice the
inconsistency in the construction. While the first pair of protases is epexegetical
the second has an adversative relationship. While this is not problematic itself, it is
one of a series of structural lapses that leave the construction difficult to follow. In
the third pair of protases, the ambiguity of the construction is further advanced by
the absence of the conjunction ἀλλά, which the author uses in the first two. Instead,
he simply uses καί, causing the construction to lose symmetry as well as some of
its rhetorical effect. As if the sentence were not long enough at this point, the
author had the option of placing the apodosis after this last pair of protases, which
might have salvaged the construction, yet he deviates even further and digresses
into a burdensome comment about the day-to-day experiences of Lot. Only then
does the apodosis follow. Certainly sense can be made of the sentence, yet from a
structural perspective it is at the least cumbersome and difficult.
Jude on the other hand demonstrates a much more deliberate structure, avoiding
the long conditional sentence altogether. He places his material in three concise
examples, each of which ends with a particular judgment for a particular act of
disobedience. Moreover, Jude stays more on topic in that he does not digress into
60 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

the idea of the righteous being saved from trials, something 2 Peter only mentions
in this section. In addition, he leaves out the burdensome comment concerning Lot.
Jude also demonstrates more rhetorical savvy in his use of tense and his irony in
his description of the sinning angels; they did not “keep” (μὴ τηρήσαντας) their
original state, he has “kept” (τετήρηκεν) them in chains. Given 2 Peter’s penchant
for repeating words, it is noteworthy that his text lacks this play on words and uses
the very generic statement, “the angels who sinned” (ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησὰντων).
Thus Jude’s account seems to be a further development of 2 Peter’s. The three
main verbs of Jude’s construction shift from aorist, “he destroyed” (ἀπώλεσεν), to
perfect, “he has kept” (τετήρηκεν), and finally to present, “they are serving as an
example” (πρόκεινται). 16 Jude’s strategic use of tense in his letter appears much
more deliberate than 2 Peter’s. 17 Moreover, Jude’s point is very clear and concise
in contrast to that of 2 Peter where one wonders whether his focus is on those who
were destroyed or those who were rescued.
Another observation regarding the structure of these units deals with the
threefold description of the false teachers in 2 Pet 2:10 and Jude 8. Notice the
paragraph breaks in each unit and the bold, underlined common material. The UBS
4th edition and the NA27 both signify a new paragraph in the text. In 2 Peter’s
account the first two accusations are included in the emphatic statement describing
the unrighteous people God intends to judge, “especially those who indulge their
fleshly desires and reject authority” (μάλιστα δὲ τοὺς ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἐν ἐπιθυμία
μιασμοῦ πορευομένους καὶ κυριότητος καταφρονοῦντας). This statement says
nothing about blaspheming the glorious ones (δόξας οὐ τρέμουσιν
βλασφημοῦντες). Their crimes are only two-fold, indulging their fleshly desires
and rejecting authority. It is only after the long conditional sentence has ended and
a new paragraph begun that the writer comments that the false teachers are not
afraid to blaspheme the angels. Notice, however, that the material in Jude 8 is very
tightly placed in a μὲν...δὲ…δὲ construction with each particle neatly before the
accusative direct object and the verb, a much easier reading and certainly more
deliberate. To suggest that 2 Peter has copied this material from Jude’s account,
one must posit that the author of 2 Peter consciously calculated how to incorporate
the first two ideas into the very end of the long conditional sentence and then begin
an entirely new paragraph utilizing the theme of the third idea. While this is not
impossible, the suggestion that Jude noticed the clumsiness of 2 Peter’s

16 These examples demonstrate God’s destruction of the wicked in the past, the fact that he has
bound the wicked angels and they remain in that state, as well as the reality of the eternal
punishment of the sexually immoral.
17 Bauckham attributes 2 Peter’s shift in tense in this section to the testamentary nature of the
letter, citing the shift in 3b and the continued use of the present in 2:10-22. However, these
are not the only occurrences of this practice. In this pericope alone there are a series of
examples of the writer’s lack of finesse in his use of tense (2:3, 4, 6, 7, 8).
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 61

construction and edited his material, placing it in a neatly constructed unit, is by far
easier to understand. Moreover, coupled with the suggestion that the author
demonstrates a desire to write in a “grand style” (Bauckham 1983, 137; Kelly
1969, 228; MHT 2.6, 28; 4.142), the question then becomes, if 2 Peter was
thinking this thoroughly about borrowing Jude’s material how could he produce
such a clumsily structured copy when he had before him such a tightly constructed
text? Interestingly, it is this very issue that leads Bauckham (1983, 142; cf. Spitta
1885, 159-60) to the conclusion that 2 Peter is dependent upon Jude. 18 He
comments, “The most important literary reason for preferring 2 Peter’s dependence
on Jude to the opposite hypothesis is that this commentary shows Jude 4-18 to be a
piece of writing whose detailed structure and wording has been composed with
exquisite care, whereas the corresponding parts of 2 Peter, while by no means
carelessly composed, are by comparison more loosely structured.” This is a
surprising statement since Bauckham himself holds to Markan priority and the
analogy from the Synoptics demonstrates the opposite would be true (Bauckham
2006, 7).

3.3 Evidence based on vocabulary

In the category of vocabulary, studies frequently focus on counting the number of
hapax legomena and provide percentage formulas to show that these letters either
have a significant or insignificant number of each, depending on the way the data
are viewed. Again, these arguments can go either way. Here the focus is more on
word choice. Two examples of this help to demonstrate a tendency to change
wording, where the surrounding material is strikingly similar, to a term that is not
only different, but lacks verbal agreement.

3.3.1 σειραῖς vs. δεσμοῖς

2 Peter 2:4 Jude 6

Εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν
οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ
ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν ἴδιον οἰκητήριον εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης
τηρουμένους ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον

18 Spitta acknowledges that 2 Peter’s construction seems to follow a source, though he suggests
it could be either Sir 16:6-11 or 3 Macc 2:4-6. While this suggestion is not without warrant,
one can see that his decision as to the direction of dependence is already made and is not
based on any empirical evidence. He does not take into consideration the differences in
grammar and syntax.
62 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

The first example comes from the parallel of 2 Pet 2:4 and Jude 6 where the
former has the reading σειραῖς while the latter uses δεσμοῖς. 19 At first glance it
appears there is verbal agreement, yet a variant exists in the text of 2 Peter. With
regard to the textual variants σειραῖς, σειρoῖς, and σιρoῖς in comparison to Jude’s
δεσμοῖς, any of the former can be seen as more obscure terms and giving rise to
Jude’s more common word. The problem with these variants (σειρoῖς, σιρoῖς) is
that they have a completely different meaning. The term σειραῖς means “chains”
while σειρoῖς means “pits.” A solution to this textual problem can shed additional
light on the possibility of one writer’s dependence upon the other. This is evident
by the UBS Editorial Committee’s decision based on the presupposition that the
author of 2 Peter replaced Jude’s commonplace term δεσμοῖς with σειραῖς
(Metzger 2000, 632). All of the evidence being even, one would think the
Committee would side with the more difficult term rather than defaulting to the
priority of Jude, yet this is not the case. Still, they could only give the text reading
(σειραῖς) a grade of C.

19 The reading σειραῖς is supported by P72 P Ψ 33 1739 M vg sy, and can be dated as early as
the second century. While it is more widespread, with support from the Syriac and Latin
versions, its distribution before the fourth century is absent. The external evidence for σιροῖς
is on equal par being supported by ‫ א‬A B C 81 pc (A B C read σειροῖς [MM, 571]). The
scribe of ‫ א‬demonstrates the tendency to change ει to ι, and the scribe of B to change ι to ει
placing the weight of evidence for σειροῖς on A C (MHT, 2.78). Although it lacks any
evidence from the papyri as the former reading, it can still be dated very early and is solidly
attested by the Alexandrian witnesses. External evidence being equal, the decision must be
made largely on internal evidence. σειραῖς is much less common than δεσμοῖς. It is unlikely
that a later scribe would have changed it to the more common σιροῖς since it with does not
have the same meaning. This is even more unlikely if the scribe were familiar with Jude since
the terms σειραῖς and δεσμοῖς share the same verbal idea. It is unlikely that a scribe would
have altered a word to maintain similarity in form while completely changing the meaning.
The terms σειροῖς and σιροῖς mean “pits.” Moreover, there is no variant for δεσμοῖς, which
would be the more likely choice, especially if the scribe had Jude in mind. A simple
misspelling of the word or faulty vision could also have been a factor. The word, having then
been misspelled could have been changed by a scribe to the better spelling σιροῖς (MM, 571;
BDAG, 918; LSJ, 1600). The spelling for σειροῖς is found in P Leid. being used as “water
from pits” (ὕδατος ἀπὸ σειροῦ). A solid conclusion from internal evidence is also uncertain
but presents the possibility that originally 2 Peter, alluding to 1 Enoch used σειροῖς. Jude, also
familiar with the Fall of the Watchers in the Enochic tradition, and seeing the redundancy of
the use of σειροῖς with ταρταρώσας clarified 2 Peter’s language using δεσμοῖς. In doing this
he has not changed the story of the Watchers but has merely emphasized their being bound
yet still makes clear the place where they are bound. 2 Peter’s construction is not so clear.
The more difficult and obscure term is σειροῖς and seems likely to have given rise to σειραῖς.
In either case, σειραῖς and σειροῖς are by far the more difficult terms and regardless of which
is original would still be more likely to have given rise to Jude’s δεσμοῖς rather than the
opposite scenario.
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 63

The Committee’s view, of course, assumes that some form of “chains” is the
more likely reading. Yet this does not have to be the case. The author of 2 Peter
shows evidence that he had knowledge of 1 Enoch and conceptually alludes to it
here and in 2:11. His use of σειρoῖς for “pits” could be a reference to 1 Enoch
10:11-13; 21:6-10, where the angels who sinned are said to be cast into dark,
terrible valleys. What is interesting about these accounts is that they also indicate
that the angels are “bound.” While the Greek version of the Book of Watchers does
not use the word σειρoῖς to refer to the valleys, Jude’s term δεσμοῖς is quite
common (1 En. 10:3; 14:5; 18:14; 21:10). It could be that Jude, seeing 2 Peter’s
use of σειρoῖς ζὀφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν “in chains of gloom he has delivered
them over casting them into Tartarus,” thought this was confusing, redundant, and
lacking any reference to being bound and made the change to δεσμοῖς. This is
certainly the harder reading since it is redundant and σειρoῖς is the more rare and
difficult term (Spitta 1885, 428). 20 The Committee usually has no problem
deciding in favour of the more obscure term, but with the explicit mention of 2
Peter’s dependence upon Jude in their explanation the decision was apparently
biased in this direction. The comments read, “If, as is generally supposed, 2 Peter
depends in part on Jude, the author of the former appears to have substituted the
more elegant word σειραῖς for the commonplace δεσμοῖς of Jude 6.” Yet in their
comments for the variants ἀγάπαις/ἀπάταις they comment, “a majority of the
Committee was of the opinion that the author of 2 Peter consciously altered Jude’s
expression, substituting (as he does elsewhere) a more generalized expression”
(Metzger 2000, 632-34). It is striking how in one variant 2 Peter provides a more
elegant term while in others he provides a more generalized term. This shows the
mindset with which the Committee members worked making each case fit to
demonstrate the priority of Jude.

3.3.2 σπίλος vs. σπιλάδες

2 Peter 2:13b Jude 12a

ἡδονὴν ἡγούμενοι τήν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τρυφήν οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐν ταῖς ἀγάπαις ὑμῶν
σπίλοι καὶ μῶμοι ἐντρυφῶντες ἐν ταῖς σπιλάδες συνευωχούμενοι ἀφόβως
ἀπάταις αὐτῶν συνευωχούμενοι ὑμῖν,

2 Pet 2:13b and Jude 12a, also demonstrates a variant that reflects verbal
disagreement; σπίλος for “spots” (BDAG, 938) in 2 Peter and σπιλάδες “dangerous
reefs” (LSJ, 1628; cf. Homer, Od. 3.298; 5.401) in Jude. The meaning of σπίλος

20 He rightly notes, ‘Außerdem aber ist nachgewiesen, daß die richtige Lesart in 2 Peter 2,4
σειροῖς ζόφου ist. Mithin ist es ganz unmöglich, daß Petrus durch das δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις auf
seinen Ausdruck gekommen sein sollte.’
64 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

grew from its original meaning of rock to a porous rock, rotten stone, clay, and
finally to a rock that is clay-stained (Rutherford 1881, 87). However, it’s original
and most natural meaning was “rock,” in particular one at sea such as a reef
(BDAG, 938). 2 Peter uses it metaphorically with its later meaning to refer to
“spots” or “stains.” Jude’s term σπιλάδες is used in the metaphorical sense of
dangerous reefs with his ocean and storm imagery, “clouds swept away by the
wind” (νεφέλαι ἄνυδροι ὑπὸ ἀνέμων παραφερόμεναι) and “wild waves of the sea”
(κύματα ἄγρια θαλάσσης), a more precise use of the word in its original sense.
Thus, Jude appears to have a more developed imagery from that in 2 Peter. From a
tradition-historic perspective, it seems less likely that 2 Peter would ignore this
well-developed imagery altogether in favour of a more generic use, especially
since he uses σπίλος redundantly in conjunction with μῶμος reading “spots and
blemishes.” Perhaps the author was not aware of the original meaning of the word
and was only familiar with the metaphorical use “stains” (cf. Eph 5:27). A more
probable scenario is that Jude saw this redundancy and its use with the late
meaning and replaced σπίλος with σπιλάδες to more colourfully portray the danger
of the false teachers.

4. Conclusion
If we hold the analogy of the Synoptics up to 2 Peter and Jude, several factors
point to the possibility that 2 Peter is prior. (1) Individual parallels demonstrate that
2 Peter contains numerous grammatical difficulties that are notably absent in Jude.
This makes it possible to suggest that Jude has corrected 2 Peter’s Greek grammar
similar to what we find in the Synoptic tradition. (2) The structure of 2 Pet 2:4-10a
and Jude 5-8 are markedly different. 2 Peter is loosely constructed in a long,
cumbersome conditional sentence that at times loses coherence due to the writer’s
shifts in topic and the addition of irrelevant material. Jude on the other hand is
shorter, tightly structured and grammatically cohesive. (3) Differences in word
choice and lexical variants between the parallels also show that 2 Peter
demonstrates a consistent use of difficult and even obscure terms that are absent in
Jude. Based on the principles of textual criticism, 2 Peter tends to employ the more
obscure and difficult terms in these relationships indicating his readings are more
likely to have given rise to Jude’s.
These same phenomena are used in Synoptic studies to argue for the priority of
Mark. If the argument from grammar holds true in favour of Markan priority, the
evidence put forth here makes it possible to suggest that 2 Peter is also prior. While
this says nothing about the genuineness of the letter, it is hoped that a more
objective argument for the direction of literary dependence can now be advanced.
MATHEWS The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude 65

Abbott, E.A. 1882a. On the Second Epistle of Peter: Was the Author St. Peter? Expositor
2/3: 204-219.
Abbot, E.A. 1882b. On the Second Epistle of Peter: Had the Author Read Jude? Expositor
Abbot, E.A. 1901. The Corrections of Mark adopted by Matthew and Luke. London: A&C
Bauckham, R.J. 1983. Jude, 2 Peter. Dallas: Word [WBC 50].
Bauckham, R.J. 2006. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Bigg, C. 1901. The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude. Edinburgh: T&T Clark [ICC].
Chase, F.H. 1963. Epistle of Jude. Pages 536-38 in Dictionary of the Bible, edited by J.
Hastings, 2nd ed. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Davids, P. 2006. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans [PNTC].
Fornberg, T. 1977. An Early Church in a Pluralistic Society: A Study of 2 Peter. Translated
by J. Gray. Lund: Gleerup.
Hawkins, J.C. 2004. Horae Synopticae: Contributions to the Study of the Synoptic Problem.
2nd ed. Eugene: Wipf & Stock.
Kelly, J.N.D. 1969. A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude. New York: Harper
& Row.
Kraus, T.J. 2001. Sprache, Stil und historischer Ort des zweiten Petrusbriefes. Tübingen:
Mohr Siebeck [WUNT II 136].
Mayor, J.B. 1907. The Epistles of Jude and 2 Peter: Greek Text with Introduction, Notes,
and Comments. New York: MacMillan.
Spitta, F. 1885. Der zweite Brief des Petrus und der Brief des Judas: Eine geschichtliche
Untersuchung. Halle: Waisenhauses.
Mayor, J.B. 1907. The Epistles of Jude and 2 Peter: Greek Text with Introduction, Notes,
and Comments. New York: MacMillan.
McKnight, S. 2001. A Generation Who Knew Not Streeter. Pages 65-95 in Rethinking the
Synoptic Problem. Edited by D.A. Black and D.R. Beck. Grand Rapids: Baker.
Metzger, B.M. 2000. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. Stuttgart:
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
Moo, D. 1996. 2 Peter and Jude: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids:
Zondervan [NIVAC].
Neyrey, J. 1993. 2 Peter, Jude. New York: Doubleday [AB 37].
Phrynichus, A. 1820. Phrynichi Eclogae Nominum et Verborum Atticorum. Edited by C.A.
Lobeck. Leipzig: Weidmann.
Powell, C.E. 2000. The Semantic Relationship Between the Protasis and the Apodosis of
New Testament Conditional Constructions. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation: Dallas
Theological Seminary.
Reicke, B. 1964. The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude. Garden City: Doubleday [AB].
Robertson, A.T. 1934. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical
Research. Nashville: Broadman.
Rutherford, W.G. 1881. The New Phyrnichus: Being a Revised Text of The Eclogae of the
Grammarian Phrynichus. London: Macmillan.
Schreiner, T.R. 2003. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Nashville: Broadman & Hollman [NAC].
66 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Skehan, P.W. 1960. Note on 2 Peter 2:13. Bib 41: 69-71.

Stein, R.H. 2001. Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation, 2nd ed. Grand
Rapids: Baker.
Streeter, B.H. 1924. The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins. London: MacMillan.
Thurén, L. 2004. The Relationship Between 2 Peter and Jude: A Classical Problem
Resolved? Pages 451-460 in The Catholic Epistles and the Tradition. Edited by J.
Schlosser. Leuven: University Press.
Wallace, D.B. 1997. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New
Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Wallace, D.B. 2008. Second Peter: Introduction, Argument, and Outline. Online:
Watson, D.F. 1988. Invention, Arrangement, and Style: Rhetorical Criticism of Jude and 2
Peter. Atlanta: Scholars [SBLDS 104].
Wifstrand, A. 2005. Epochs and Styles: Selected Writings on the New Testament, Greek
Language, and Greek Culture in the Post-Classical Era. Edited by L. Rydbeck and
S. Porter. Translated by D. Searby. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck [WUNT 179].
Wifstrand, A. 1948. The Homily of Melito in the Passion. VC 2:201-23.

Maarten J.J. Menken

Tilburg University

“Allusion” is a concept that is not easily defined. Nevertheless, anyone searching for
allusions in a text works with an implicit idea of what an allusion is, so one should
try to make this idea as explicit as possible. The paper therefore starts with some
theoretical considerations on what an allusion is and how it works. These are then
applied to the allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Gospel of John as they are listed
in NA27 and UBS4. Some of these supposed allusions will appear to constitute real
allusions, others should be considered as reflections of general biblical themes, and a
few are references to early Christian traditions based on the OT.

1. Introduction
Recently, when working on an article about John’s use of the Minor Prophets
(Menken 2009), I decided to discuss not only John’s quotations from, but also his
allusions to, passages from the Minor Prophets. This decision entailed the
obligation to determine where in John’s text allusions to the Minor Prophets can be
found. I took my starting point in the list of “Loci citati vel allegati” in NA27,
which in this edition corresponds to the marginal references to the OT, and in the
“Index of allusions and verbal parallels” in UBS4, which here corresponds to the
OT references in the footnotes. The editors of these two widely used editions of the
Greek text of the NT may be supposed to have given some serious thought to the
question of what to include as OT references, and it may be assumed that their
references in any case represent some sort of average of what exegetes consider as
allusions. According to the introduction to NA27, “[d]irect quotations [from the
OT] are indicated by italics …, and allusions by normal type” (p. 78*; German text
on p. 37*); this is tantamount to saying that all OT references that are not in italics
concern allusions. In the introduction to UBS4, it is stated that the references in the
footnotes include three categories: “(1) quotations from biblical and non-biblical

* Earlier versions of this paper were presented to the Annual Seminar on the Use of the OT in
the NT at Hawarden (N. Wales) on 3 April 2009, and to the Seminar on the LXX and the NT
at the General Meeting of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas at Vienna on 5 August
2009. I thank the participants in these two seminars for their helpful criticisms and comments.
Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 67-84
© New Testament Society of South Africa
68 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

books; (2) definite allusions, where it is assumed that the writer had in mind a
specific passage of Scripture; and (3) literary and other parallels” (p. 45*). The
difficulty is, as far as the OT references are concerned, that the three categories are
not distinguished in the footnotes. Now the quotations are easily recognized,
because they are printed in bold, but it is not clear whether the other OT references
represent definite allusions or just parallels. So I started considering all OT
references of NA27 and UBS4 that are not marked as quotations, as allusions, and I
tried to sort them out in a critical way. In the final version of the article I discussed
those allusions from the two lists that were, in my view, real allusions.
In this contribution I intend to make explicit the reasons why I retain some of
the supposed allusions of the two lists, and why I reject others. This presupposes an
idea of what an allusion is, and that will be the topic of the first section below. I
shall then turn to the allusions to the Minor Prophets listed for John in NA27 and
UBS4, to test the criteria for an allusion developed in the first section and to see
which of the supposed allusions can be considered as real allusions. 1 So I hope to
contribute something not only to the exegesis of John’s Gospel, but also to the
study of OT allusions in the NT. For practical reasons only allusions to the Minor
Prophets function here as a test case, but one could of course ask the same question
for other OT allusions in early Christian literature. 2
In the analysis of the allusions to the Minor Prophets in John we may
presuppose, on the basis of examinations of John’s OT quotations, that the
evangelist normally makes use of the LXX (see Schuchard 1992; Menken 1996;
Obermann 1996; Köstenberger 2007). We should further take into account that
John not only creates OT allusions but also derives them from his sources and
traditions, and that he may sometimes allude not so much directly to the OT as to
an extant Christian interpretation of the OT.

2. What is an Allusion?
Texts refer to other, older, already existing texts, and the attempt by the reader or
listener to grasp these references and their function and meaning is a necessary
aspect of the open-ended process of understanding a text. One tiny part of this vast
phenomenon of texts referring to other texts is that the NT refers to “the
Scriptures”, the collection of writings that Christians call the OT, and that readers
of, or listeners to, the NT try to recognize and assess these scriptural references.
There are many forms in which one text can refer to another; if we limit our field

1 M.D. Hooker (2005, 45-49) has done something similar for allusions to Isaiah in Mark.
2 There are two instances in John where words from a Minor Prophets passage constitute part
of a quotation from another OT source (Zech 14:8 in John 7:38, and Zeph 3:16 in John
12:15). These should not be considered as allusions (although NA27 suggests they are), but as
secondary sources of OT quotations.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 69

of inquiry to the use of the OT in the NT, we can say that quotation and allusion
are probably most used and best known. For our purposes a quotation can be
defined tentatively as a more or less verbatim and therefore easily recognizable
borrowing of a clause or a series of clauses from Scripture. One (verbal or
nominal) clause, brief as it may be, is the minimal element of a quotation (see, e.g.,
Matt 2:23; Heb 12:29). We can further distinguish between marked (or explicit)
and unmarked (or implicit) quotations, that is, between quotations that are
introduced or closed by a formula that characterizes the borrowed words as coming
from Scripture (e.g., “it is written”, John 6:31; Rom 12:19), and quotations that
lack such a formula (e.g., Mark 15:24; Rev 1:7).
It is much less simple to define an allusion. R.B. Hays, a NT scholar who has
given serious attention to the issue of allusion (Hays 1989, esp. 29-32; Hays 2006),
The volume of intertextual echo varies in accordance with the semantic distance
between the source and the reflecting surface. Quotation, allusion, and echo may be
seen as points along a spectrum of intertextual reference, moving from the explicit to
the subliminal. As we move farther away from overt citation, the source recedes into
the discursive distance, the intertextual relations become less determinate, and the
demand placed on the reader’s listening powers grows greater (Hays 1989, 23).
I leave aside the distinction between allusion and echo, and speak only of
allusions: Hays uses the two terms in fact interchangeably, and echo is the faintest
form of allusion. 3 Hays rightly emphasizes that the “semantic distance” between
the referring text and the text referred to is greater in the case of an allusion in
comparison to a quotation: in the case of an allusion, the verbal agreement can be
very slight, and the imagination of the reader or hearer is addressed to a higher
degree. On the other hand, there must be an element in the referring text that makes
it possible to identify the text referred to. Hays has proposed seven criteria to
identify the text referred to and so establish the allusion (Hays 2006, 34-45): 4 (1)
The text referred to must have been available to the author of the referring text. (2)
The allusion must have some volume, that is, there must be some verbal
correspondence between the source text and the receiving text, and the more
distinctive both source text and receiving text are, the better. (3) If a NT author has
a demonstrable interest in an OT passage, allusions to the same passage are
compelling. (4) There must be thematic coherence between the precursor text and
the NT text. (5) The supposed allusion must be historically plausible, from the

3 C.H. Beetham (2008, 17-24) tries to distinguish allusion and echo by means of the criterion of
consciousness on the part of the author: an allusion is conscious, an echo may be conscious or
unconscious. To my mind, the criterion of consciousness is irrelevant in the case of ancient
texts, whose authors are unknown.
4 He speaks of “echo” where I use “allusion”.
70 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

points of view of both the NT author and his audience. (6) An allusion is more
secure if in the course of history other readers have heard it as well. (7) The
supposed allusion must contribute to the sense of the NT text in question.
These (sometimes overlapping) criteria are very useful in the process of
establishing an allusion. They are based on the important presupposition that an
allusion is a relation between two individual texts. That we have to do with an
individual text, is self-evident as far as the NT text is concerned, but it is also valid
for the OT text. The source of an allusion is not a general thought, but a specific
text. Some considerations of the literary theorist Z. Ben-Porat can help us further
here (Ben-Porat 1976). 5 She distinguishes between “allusion” and “literary
allusion”. The former is defined by her as “an indirect reference to a known fact”
(Ben-Porat 1976, 105); it is synonymous with “hint”, and is quite common in
human speech. A literary allusion is “a device for the simultaneous activation of
two texts” (Ben-Porat 1976, 107): a text contains a sign, and the referent of this
sign is an independent text. “The simultaneous activation of the two texts thus
connected results in the formation of intertextual patterns whose nature cannot be
predetermined” (Ben-Porat 1976, 108). In a common, non-literary allusion, sign
and referent exist within the world of the alluding text; in a literary allusion the
sign points to another text. Ben-Porat calls this sign the “marker”, which is “always
identifiable as an element or pattern belonging to another independent text”, and
which “is used for the activation of independent elements from the evoked text”
(Ben-Porat 1976, 108-109).
The process of actualizing a literary allusion as Ben-Porat describes it, consists
of four stages: (1) In a text a marker is identified as something that belongs to
another, independent text, where it appears (in the same or another form) as the
marked. (2) The evoked text is identified. (3) The initial local interpretation of the
marker is modified on the basis of the marked: at least one intertextual pattern
emerges here. (4) The evoked text as a whole may be activated, so that more
intertextual patterns are formed; it is not necessary that these make use of the
marker or the marked. The alluding text is mostly understandable without the
actualization of the allusion, but its interpretation becomes richer if the allusion is
actualized. The relation between the alluding text and its precursor can vary from
“no common elements, except for the marker” to “shared world components”
(Ben-Porat 1976, 117).
With the help of the considerations of Hays and Ben-Porat (see also Beetham
2008, 11-40), I can now try to make explicit my idea of an allusion. First of all,
when I speak of an allusion to the OT in a NT passage, I mean what Ben-Porat
labels a “literary allusion”. A NT allusion to the OT can be defined as a device for

5 Her theory has been used to detect and analyse allusions in a NT text by, e.g., Jauhiainen
2005; Jauhiainen 2009. See also Moyise 2008, 123-124, 130.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 71

the simultaneous activation of a NT text and an OT text. The important thing is that
in a NT allusion, one specific OT text is evoked, not a general theme or topic.
There must be, in the alluding text, one or more signals (Ben-Porat’s “marker”)
that clearly refer to the text alluded to: a characteristic combination of words, a
name, a typical construction, etc. It is, at least in theory, possible that one NT text
alludes to more than one OT text at the same time, but in that case there must be in
the NT text signals pointing to each of these individual OT texts. The assumed
allusion has to be plausible from a historical point of view: the precursor text must
have been available and known to author and audience of the alluding text, the
allusion must fit into the cultural context of the author, and also of his audience, 6
and preferably, the author of the alluding text must have a demonstrable interest in
the OT passage alluded to. Finally the allusion should, so to speak, make sense: it
must contribute to the meaning and to the interpretation of the alluding text. For
what I intend to do in this paper, the historical plausibility of John’s allusions to the
Minor Prophets is not problematic: we know that the Minor Prophets were read
and interpreted in early Judaism (see Leonhardt-Balzer 2009) and in early
Christianity. So I shall focus on the identification of the OT texts alluded to, and on
their meaning in the NT context.
A major difficulty that remains, is the apparently subjective character of
allusions: one reader detects an allusion where another reader does not, and this
happens even when both readers may be supposed to be expert readers.
Subjectivity is also involved in Ben-Porat’s stage 4, the formation of more
intertextual patterns between the alluding text and the text alluded to: there
sometimes seems to be no end to the process of finding links between the context
of the alluding NT text and the context of the OT text alluded to. Hays
acknowledges the risk of subjectivity, and tries to remedy it by describing the
identification of allusions as an art rather than a science, and by making it the
matter of a community of readers (including past readers; see esp. Hays 2006, 29-
30). Such an intersubjective test is no doubt helpful: the more readers detect an
allusion and assess it in the same way, the better the chances that it is present in the
text and that it is interpreted adequately. For the rest, a certain amount of
subjectivity is inherent in the phenomenon of allusion itself, because an allusion is
meant to trigger the literary knowledge and the imagination of the reader. What the
interpreter of the alluding text can do and should do, is to make his or her
perceptions, arguments and decisions as explicit and as verifiable as possible.

6 A moot point is here in how far the audience will have understood the author’s allusions,
especially when the audience is (predominantly) Gentile and the author is Jewish, as in the
case of Paul’s letters (see Stanley 1999). In such a case, authorial intent takes to my mind
priority over the understanding of the audience.
72 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

3. John’s Allusions to the Minor Prophets 7

3.1 John 1:21; 3:28 and Mal 3:1, 23

John’s narrative starts with envoys from Jerusalem asking John the Baptist
questions about his role in salvation history. One of these questions is: “Are you
Elijah?” (John 1:21). 8 It recalls Mal 3:23: “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah
before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” From this prophecy derives
the expectation of the eschatological return of Elijah (see Sir 48:10). Whereas in
the Synoptic Gospels John the Baptist is identified with Elijah (see Mark 9:11-13
par.; Matt 11:14; Luke 1:17), the fourth evangelist makes him deny that he is
Elijah. The point of John’s text is not so much the return of Elijah as the identity of
John the Baptist. This suggests that the evangelist does not go back directly to
Malachi, but makes use of the early Christian view of the Baptist as we find it in
the synoptic tradition. So the “text” alluded to by means of the marker “Elijah” is
not Mal 3:23 in itself, but Mal 3:23 in its pre-Johannine early Christian application
to John the Baptist.
The evangelist moves along similar lines in 3:28, when he has John the Baptist
say on his relation to Jesus: “I have been sent ahead of him” (ἀπεσταλμένος εἰμὶ
ἔμπροσθεν ἐκείνου). He alludes here to the pre-Johannine early Christian
interpretation of Mal 3:1: “I am sending my messenger … before me” (LXX: ἐγὼ
ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου ... πρὸ προσώπου μου). 9 The synoptic tradition
considers John the Baptist, the returned Elijah, to be this messenger, as is shown by
marked quotations from Mal 3:1 (combined with the analogous verse Exod 23:20)
in Mark 1:2; Matt 11:10 par., and by allusions to the verse in Luke 1:17, 76. In
John 3:28, the evangelist alludes to Mal 3:1 in this interpretation.
Do John’s allusions to Mal 3:1, 23 make sense? The Baptist explicitly denies
that he is Elijah (1:21) but seems to admit it implicitly (3:28). The point is that
identification of John the Baptist with Elijah would make him into the precursor of
Jesus, whereas the evangelist sees him as a witness contemporaneous with Jesus
(see esp. 1:29-37; 3:23-30). However, the evangelist also has to acknowledge the
historical priority of John the Baptist, whose ministry began earlier than that of
Jesus, and in 3:28, he does so in terms derived from Mal 3:1. John solves the
tension between the two roles of the Baptist, as witness contemporaneous with
Jesus and as precursor of Jesus, by emphasizing the Baptist’s meta-historical
inferiority over against Jesus whenever he acknowledges his historical priority (see

7 In this section there is some inevitable overlap with Menken 2009.

8 Translations of biblical passages come from the NRSV, unless otherwise indicated.
9 At John 3:28 NA27 has a marginal reference to “Mc 1,2!”; at Mark 1:2 one finds the reference
to Mal 3:1.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 73

1:15, 27, 30; 3:28, 31-32; see further Menken 1996, 28-35). So he gives a
relatively consistent reading of the early Christian interpretation of Mal 3:1, 23.

3.2 John 1:47 and Zeph 3:13

In John 1:47, Jesus characterizes Nathanael as “truly an Israelite in whom there is
no deceit (δόλος)”. The idea that in a pious person there is no deceit, is found
several times in the OT (see Pss 15:3; 17:1; 32:2; 34:14; 120:2; Isa 53:9; Zeph
3:13, all with δόλος or a derivative of it in the LXX). Is there in John 1:47 a marker
that unambiguously refers to one particular OT passage? Zeph 3:13 is unique
within the OT in that here the theme of “no deceit” is combined with the name
“Israel”: “… the remnant of Israel … nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their
mouths.” The same unique combination appears in John 1:47.
An allusion to Zeph 3:13 also makes sense: Nathanael represents “the remnant
of Israel”, and more generally Jesus’ disciples constitute the nucleus of the
eschatological Israel, of which Jesus is king (see 1:31, 49; 12:13). So it is
legitimate to perceive in John 1:47 an allusion to Zeph 3:13.

3.3 John 1:49; 12:13 and Zeph 3:15

In John 1:49 Nathanael calls Jesus βασιλεὺς ... τοῦ ᾿Ισραήλ, “the King of Israel”,
and in 12:13, the crowd give him the same title (ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ ᾿Ισραήλ) on his
entry into Jerusalem. In both cases the margin of NA27 contains a reference to Zeph
3:15 LXX, where God is called βασιλεὺς ᾿Ισραηλ. Moreover, NA27 renders the
words βασιλεὺς ... Ἰσραήλ in John 12:13 in italics, indicating that these two words
are considered to be a quotation from Zeph 3:15 LXX. What should one think of
these assessments?
Firstly, the reference to the LXX does not make sense: βασιλεὺς Ισραηλ is in
Zeph 3:15 a straightforward and standard translation, in fact almost the only
possible translation, of the Hebrew l)r#y Klm. Any translator would very
probably arrive at this result.
Secondly, it is not correct to consider βασιλεὺς ... Ἰσραήλ in John 12:13 as a
quotation: the agreement between the Johannine verses and Zeph 3:15 does not
extend to a clause. Besides, it is hard to understand why the words in question
would constitute a quotation in John 12:13, but not in 1:49. The only reasons for
this difference that I can think of are that in John 12:13 the words are surrounded
by quotations (Ps 118:25-26 in 12:13 and Zech 9:9 in 12:15), and that “do not be
afraid” at the beginning of the quotation from Zech 9:9 in 12:15 could come from
Zeph 3:16 (see Menken 1996, 83-84). However, these reasons are not sufficient to
make βασιλεὺς ... Ἰσραήλ in John 12:13 into a quotation from Zeph 3:15.
Thirdly, there is no need to perceive in John 1:49; 12:13 an allusion to Zeph
3:15. The expression “the King of Israel” for God occurs in the OT not only in
74 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Zeph 3:15, but also in Isa 44:6, and indirectly (with a personal pronoun or “Jacob”
replacing “Israel”) in several passages, 10 so there is no particular reason to derive
these two Johannine instances specifically from Zeph 3:15. More importantly, “the
King of Israel” is said in the OT of historical kings of Israel (Saul for instance: 1
Sam 24:15; 26:20), and indirectly of the eschatological David (Jer 30:9). Along
this line “the King of Israel” has become a title of the Messiah (directly in Ps. Sol.
17:42, indirectly in Ps. Sol. 17:21; further Mark 15:32). In John 1:49; 12:13, the
evangelist applies this traditional title to Jesus. One should also take into account
that the idea and the terminology of kingship are part and parcel of the entry
tradition (see esp. Mark 11:10; Matt 21:5, 9; Luke 19:38), so that it was quite
obvious for John to have Jesus being acclaimed as “the King of Israel” in this

3.4 John 2:16 and Zech 14:21

According to John 2:14-16 Jesus drives traders and their merchandise out of the
temple, and says on that occasion: “Take these things out of here! Stop making my
Father’s house a market-place!” (2:16). Jesus’ action and words evoke the end of
Zechariah, where it is said about the time of the end: “And there shall no longer be
traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day” (Zech 14:21). The connection
between John and Zechariah concerns content, not wording; it is in any case not
based on the LXX, which translates yn(nk, ‘trader’, as Χαναναῖος, ‘Canaanite’. It
is nevertheless a specific connection and suggests that we have in John 2:16 an
allusion to Zech 14:21 (so also Hanson 1991, 44-45). Such an allusion makes
sense: it serves to qualify Jesus’ action in the temple as inaugurating the time of the
We can therefore consider this allusion as a real one. It is not, however, an
originally Johannine allusion, for the link between the cleansing of the temple and
Zech 14:8 is already found, albeit less pronounced, in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark
11:15-17 parr.; see De Jonge 2003).

3.5 John 4:10 and Zech 14:8

The first topic discussed in the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman
in John 4 is that of ὕδωρ ζῶν, “living water” (John 4:10, 11). Should we see in
these words an allusion to Zech 14:8, the prophecy about “living water” (MT:
Myyx Mym; LXX: ὕδωρ ζῶν) flowing out of the temple in the time of the end? An
argument for the presence of an allusion to Zech 14:8 in John 4:10 might be that
Zech 14:8 has also supplied the epithet ζῶν to the “water” mentioned in the
complex quotation of John 7:38 on the “rivers of living water” flowing from Jesus’

10 1 Sam 12:12; Isa 33:22; 41:21; 43:15; Mic 2:13; Pss 47:7; 149:2.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 75

side. The probable primary source was here Ps 77[78]:16, 20 LXX, and Zech 14:8
could be considered as analogous to the psalm verses on account of common words
(“water”, “to go out”) and common theme. Because of the analogy it was
legitimate to introduce words from Zech 14:8 into the psalm quotation. Other
factors support the hypothesis that Zech 14:8 was used in John 7:38: (1) The
Johannine Jesus proclaims the psalm quotation on the final day of the festival of
Tabernacles (7:37), and Zech 14:8 is part of a vision that finds its climax in the
remnant of the nations coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the same festival. (2) Zech
14:8 was used in an eschatological interpretation of the water libation during the
festival (see t. Sukkah 3:8; for discussion of John 7:38, see Menken 1996, 187-
The question is: does the use of Zech 14:8 in John 7:38 mean that there is in
John 4:10 an allusion to the same OT passage? To my mind it does not. First of all,
“living water” is in 7:38 part of an OT quotation, whereas there is no OT quotation
in 4:10. Next, while in 7:38 the festival of Tabernacles constitutes a link between
the Johannine text and Zech 14:8, there is no such link in 4:10. Finally, the
expression “living water” (MT: Myyx Mym; LXX: ὕδωρ ζῶν) occurs more than
once in the OT, 11 and Zech 4:18 is not the only occurrence that lends itself to an
eschatological interpretation (Cant 4:15 and Jer 2:13 are other possibilities). I
conclude that there is no specific connection between John 4:10 and Zech 14:8, and
therefore no allusion in the former text to the latter.

3.6 John 4:21 and Mal 1:11

There is at John 4:21 a marginal reference in NA27 suggesting that we have here an
allusion to Mal 1:11. Jesus announces to the Samaritan woman that “the hour is
coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in
Jerusalem”; he adds, in 4:23, that true worship of the Father will take place “in
spirit and truth”. The theme of universal worship of God is also under discussion in
Mal 1:11: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the
nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering.” As
far as I can see, there are no relevant verbal agreements between John 4:21 and
Mal 1:11. The thematic agreement is clear, although there remains some difference
between Malachi’s accusation that God’s people have defiled the temple cult, and
John’s announcement of a cult that is not bound to a fixed place. However, John’s
text has a similar thematic agreement (universal worship) with other OT passages:
I mention Isa 19:16-25; Jonah 1:14-16; 3:5-10; Zeph 2:11; Zech 14:16-19. So we
have here a case of Johannine reinterpretation of an OT theme, but no specific
allusion to Mal 1:11.

11 Gen 21:19 (LXX only); 26:19; Lev 14:5, 6, 50, 51, 52; Num 5:17 (LXX only); 19:17; Cant
4:15; Jer 2:13 (LXX: ὕδωρ ζωῆς, v.l. ὕδωρ ζῶν).
76 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

3.7 John 4:37 and Mic 6:15

In the conversation with his disciples in John 4:31-38, the Johannine Jesus says to
them: “For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps’” (ἄλλος ἐστὶν
ὁ σπείρων καὶ ἄλλος ὁ θερίζων, 4:37). The proverb “one sows and another reaps”
must originally mean something like: one person does the hard work, and another
one gets the profit of it. 12 The Johannine Jesus applies it in v. 38 in a positive
sense: the disciples reap in their missionary work what others have sown. 13 Does
the proverb constitute an allusion to Mic 6:15: “You shall sow, but not reap” (MT:
rwcqt )lw (rzt ht); LXX: σὺ σπερεῖς καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀμήσῃς)? The combination
of the verbs “to sow” and “to reap” (in Hebrew (rz and rcq, in Greek σπείρειν
and ἀμᾶν or θερίζειν or τρυγᾶν) in one saying occurs—as one would expect—
several times in the OT, but in all instances apart from Mic 6:15, it is the same
person who sows and reaps, and the content of the sayings is in most cases rather
different from John 4:37. 14 There are some sayings in the OT which are
comparable to John 4:37 in stating that one person sows or plants and others get
the benefit of his work (Deut 20:6; 28:30; Job 31:8), but in these cases the verbal
links with the Johannine text are not very strong (only Job 31:8 LXX has σπείρειν).
Mic 6:15 LXX agrees with John 4:37 in having σπείρειν and in stating that the one
who sows will not profit from his work; however, in Micah the point is not that
another one will reap but that there will be no harvest at all. A.J. Köstenberger
rightly remarks that “in Micah the saying is part of a word of judgment, while
Jesus appears to refer to a general saying that seems devoid of connotations of
judgment” (Köstenberger 2007, 440). So one must conclude that an allusion to Mic
6:15 is not immediately obvious. Besides, it is superfluous to assume here an OT
allusion: John makes use of a widespread proverb.

3.8 John 5:21 and Hos 6:2

At John 5:21 NA27 has a marginal reference to Hos 6:2, in addition to references to
Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6; 2 Kgs 5:7. All four OT passages concern God’s prerogative
to make alive and are apparently meant to illustrate the first half of the Johannine
verse: ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἐγείρει τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ ζῳοποιεῖ ..., “Indeed, just as
the Father raises the dead and gives them life…”. All four express the divine

12 That it must have been some sort of proverb with this meaning is clear from several parallels,
see Schnelle et al. 2001, 236-239.
13 On this interpretation and the problems connected to it, see Brown 1966, 182-184; Moloney
1998, 139-141.
14 See Lev 25:11; 2 Kgs 19:29; Isa 37:30; Jer 12:13; Hos 10:12; Ps 126:5; Job 4:8; Prov 22:8;
Qoh 11:4. Cf. further 1 Esd 4:6; Sir 7:3.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 77

activity by means of the verb hyx piel or hiphil; this is translated in the LXX by
ὑγιάζειν (Hos 6:2; Aquila and Symmachus have ἀναζωοῦν), ζῆν ποιεῖν (Deut
32:39), ζωογονεῖν (1 Kgdms 2:6), and ζωοποιεῖν (4 Kgdms 5:7). The last instance
is the only one in which there is verbal agreement with John; Hos 6:2 MT, on the
other hand, agrees with John in also having the verb “to raise up”, but in Hos 6:2
LXX wnmqy, “he will raise us up” (Mwq hiphil with suffix), has been translated as
ἀναστήσομεθα, “we shall rise”, while John has ἐγείρει. Deut 32:39, 1 Sam 2:6 and
2 Kgs 5:7 agree with John 5:21 in that they also have the element of “death”,
present in John’s τοὺς νεκρούς, but their LXX versions use different Greek
terminology. So there certainly is, from the point of view of both content and
vocabulary, agreement between John 5:21 and the four OT passages.
Should we in this case speak of an allusion? There is no specific link to one OT
passage, but there are thematic and (not very impressive) verbal links to at least
four OT passages. In fact the range of comparable OT passages is not limited to
these four; there are many more presenting God as the giver of life, with various
degrees of thematic and verbal agreement with John 5:21. 15 It is clear that a
biblical theme is reflected in John 5:21, but there is no allusion to a particular
biblical text.

3.9 John 7:38 and Joel 4:18

In NA27 no part of John 7:38 has been italicized, although the formula “as the
scripture has said” unmistakably shows that we have here an OT quotation. In the
margin a series of OT references is given in roman after the question unde? We
should probably read this series as a collection of possible sources of what looks
like a quotation, but the editors are apparently not sure that it is a quotation from an
identifiable source. The series contains two passages from the Minor Prophets: Joel
4:18 and Zech 14:8.
As said above, the quotation in John 7:38 was probably derived from Ps 77:16,
10 LXX, about the water God made flow from the rock in the desert, while the
epithet “living” comes from Zech 14:8 (see the section on John 4:10). What about
Joel 4:18? According to this prophetic word, “all the stream beds of Judah shall
flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water
the Wadi Shittim”. Is it a secondary source of the quotation, or is there an allusion
to it in the composite quotation? The verse contains in the LXX version words that
also occur in the quotation: ῥεῖν, “to flow”, ὕδωρ, “water”. However, these occur
in the statement on the future fecundity of the land, while the part of the Joel verse
that is really parallel to John’s quotation, the clause on the fountain coming forth
from the temple (just as the rivers of living water come from Jesus’ side), does not

15 See Pss 30:4; 33:19; 41:3; 71:20; 80:19; 85:7; 119:25, 37, 40, 50, 88, 93, 107, 149, 154, 156,
159; Neh 9:6; Isa 38:16; 57:15-16.
78 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

show verbal agreements with John 7:38. Moreover, there are several OT passages
on the water flowing out of the rock or the temple, 16 so that it is best to consider
Joel 4:18 as one of a series of thematic parallels. There is no reason to assume a
secondary quotation from or an allusion to the verse in John 7:38.

3.10 John 7:42 and Mic 5:1

According to John 7:42 people in Jerusalem refer to a scriptural passage saying
“that the Messiah … comes from Bethlehem”, as an argument against the
Messianic claims of the Galilean Jesus. Their target must be Mic 5:1, the only OT
passage that can be read as announcing that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem:
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, … from you shall come forth for me one
who is to rule in Israel.” Micah’s prophecy is referred to in Matthew’s birth
narrative (2:5-6), implicitly also in Luke’s (2:4, 11). Apparently John makes use of
an early Christian interpretation of a text from the Twelve Prophets, within a
misunderstanding on the part of Jesus’ opponents. The precise object of their
misunderstanding remains somewhat unclear: do they not know that Jesus was in
reality born in Bethlehem, or that in reality he comes from God? Because the
Johannine misunderstandings concern a physical understanding of spiritual realities
(see, e.g., 3:4; 4:11-12), the second possibility is probably to be preferred.
A question is how we should label this OT reference. It concerns one particular
passage (Mic 5:1), and it is preceded by a quotation formula (“Has not the scripture
said …?”), but apart from the toponym “Bethlehem” there is no verbal agreement.
So it is a quotation, but the evangelist has rephrased it. I would suggest “rewritten
quotation” (by analogy with “rewritten Bible”) as an apt label for quotations like
this one.

3.11 John 8:41 and Mal 2:10

In a vehement discussion with “the Jews” (John 8:31-59), Jesus reproves them for
not “doing what Abraham did”; he implies that they cannot be children of
Abraham, but must have another father (vv. 39-41a). They answer: “We are not
illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself (ἕνα πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν
θεόν)” (v. 41b). The second half of their answer recalls Mal 2:10: “Have we not all
one father? Has not one God created us?” (LXX, with inversion of clauses and
change of person: οὐχὶ θεὸς εἷς ἔκτισεν ὑμᾶς; οὐχὶ πατὴρ εἷς πάντων ὑμῶν;). The
combination “one father” is unique in the OT. In John the “one father” is identified
as “God”, while in Malachi the parallelism of the two clauses strongly suggests
that there as well the “one father” and “God” are identical (see also Mal 1:6,

16 See, apart from the texts already referred to, Exod 17:1-7; Num 20:2-13; 21:16-18; Neh 9:15;
Pss 105:41; 114:8; Isa 48:21; Ezek 47:1-12.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 79

discussed below; see Meinhold 2006, 198). So there is in John 8:41a clear marker
pointing to Mal 2:10.
Moreover, an allusion to Mal 2:10 is meaningful: it suits a context in which
Jesus’ opponents appeal to the prerogative of divine election. It also creates a
subtle irony: “the Jews” take pride in a statement that in Malachi functions as the
beginning of a passage in which the prophet indicts the faithlessness of God’s
people (Mal 2:10-16). I conclude that this allusion should be retained.

3.12 John 8:49 and Mal 1:6

Later in the same discussion between Jesus and “the Jews”, Jesus’ opponents
accuse him of having a demon (8:48); he denies that he has one, and adds: “But I
honour my Father, and you dishonour me” (ἀλλὰ τιμῶ τὸν πατέρα μου, καὶ ὑμεῖς
ἀτιμάζετέ με). These words resemble what God says according to Mal 1:6: “A son
honours his father…. If then I am a father, where is the honour due to me?” (LXX:
ὑιὸς δοξάζει πατέρα.... καὶ εἰ πατήρ εἰμι ἐγώ, ποῦ ἐστιν ἡ δόξα μου;). Both texts
are about a son honouring his father, and in both God is called father. Both are also
about a lack of honour, but in John this concerns the son, in Malachi the father.
The LXX version of Malachi has the verb δοξάζειν (for the Hebrew dbk piel),
John has τιμᾶν.
Is there in John 8:49 an allusion to Mal 1:6? Not necessarily, to my mind. Other
texts may equally well have influenced John, for instance the long exhortation to
honour one’s parents and warning not to dishonour them in Sir 3:1-16 (the LXX
has there both δοξάζειν and τιμᾶν). The most obvious OT source for John’s
wording is the commandment “honour your father” in the Decalogue, in the LXX:
τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου (Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16; similarly Brooke 1988, 104). The
Decalogue must have been a very familiar OT passage, 17 and the verbal agreement
between John 8:48 and the commandment in its LXX version is as complete as the
Johannine context allows. It means that John has here applied a commandment that
concerns a relationship between humans to the relation between Jesus and God.
Something similar occurs in John 8:17-18, where the legal provision on the two or
three human witnesses of Deut 19:15 18 has been applied to the testimony of Jesus
and the Father. I conclude that there probably is in John 8:49 an allusion to Exod
20:12 or Deut 5:16, not to Mal 1:6. It shows that John’s Jesus keeps the
commandment of the Decalogue in his relation to his heavenly Father, whereas
“the Jews” do not keep it because they reject the one who represents this Father.

17 See in the NT: Mark 7:10 par.; 10:19 parr.; Matt 5:21, 27; Rom 13:9; Eph 6:2-3; Jas 2:11.
18 John even emphasizes that the legal provision concerns humans by speaking of δύο
ἄνθρωποι, “two humans”, in his rephrasing of the law in 8:17. We have here another instance
of a “rewritten quotation”.
80 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

3.13 John 8:52-53 and Zech 1:5

Answering to the accusation of “the Jews” in John 8:48, Jesus asserts that whoever
keeps his word will not die (8:51). His opponents contest this assertion by referring
to things that anyone can know: “Abraham died, and so did the prophets (οἱ
προφῆται)…. Are you greater than our father (τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν) Abraham, who
died? The prophets also died” (8:52-53). Zech 1:5 reads: “Your fathers 19 (LXX: οἱ
πατέρες ὑμῶν), where are they? And the prophets (LXX: οἱ προφῆται), do they live
for ever?” This is the only OT passage where “fathers” (in the sense of ancestors)
and “prophets” are collocated in a parallelism in the context of the death of both. In
John we meet the same words, the same collocation, and the same context. There
are also differences between John and Zechariah: the OT text concerns “the
fathers” in general and depicts them in a negative way (see Zech 1:2, 4), whereas
the Johannine Jews speak about “our father Abraham” and view him positively
(see John 8:33, 39; see De Lange 2008, 75 n. 77). These differences, however, do
not efface the clear agreements, and they are not relevant insofar as the remark of
“the Jews” is an observation of fact and not an evaluation of persons. So there is in
John 8:52-53 a marker referring to Zech 1:5.
An allusion to Zech 1:5 makes some sense: the statement of fact made by “the
Jews” about the death of Abraham and the prophets cannot be doubted because it is
based on Scripture. I conclude that this allusion should be retained.

3.14 John 11:50 and Jonah 1:12-15

To the chief priests and the Pharisees who are considering what to do with Jesus,
Caiaphas says: “You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die
for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (John 11:50). Among the
few OT episodes in which one person dies for others, 20 Jonah 1:12-15 is closest to
John 11:50, and this proximity is such that it is legitimate to speak of an allusion to
Jonah 1:12-15 in John 11:50. The marker consists not only of “dying for others”
(Jonah 1:12, 14), but also of the qualification of both Jonah and Jesus as “man”
(ἄνθρωπος, Jonah 1:14 LXX), and of the verb ἀπόλλυσθαι, “to be destroyed”, used
in the subjunctive with the negation μή and said of the larger group (Jonah 1:14
LXX, cf. 1:6). If we take into account not only John 11:50 and Jonah 1:12-15 in
themselves but their contexts as well, 21 more parallels appear. Both Jesus and
Jonah offer themselves to be killed (Jonah 1:12; John 10:17-18; 15:13; 18:4-11),
both are innocent (Jonah 1:14; John 18:38; 19:4, 6), both are restored to life after
three days (Jonah 2:1; John 2:19).

19 The NRSV has ‘ancestors’; I have changed to facilitate comparison.

20 Hübner 2003, 424-429, lists Josh 7:10-26, 2 Sam 20:20-22, and Jonah 1:7-15. Cf. also 2 Kgs
21 Cf. stage 4 of the process of actualizing a literary allusion as described by Ben-Porat.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 81

The allusion gains plausibility as soon as we establish that the parallel between
Jesus and Jonah was known in early Christianity (see Mark 4:35-41 parr.; Matt
12:39-41 par.; 16:4). It also makes sense: John presents Jesus as one who is both
like Jonah and greater than Jonah in that Jesus prevents the eschatological
perishing of “the whole nation”.

3.15 John 14:27 and Hag 2:9

According to John 14:27 Jesus says to his disciples in his farewell discourse: “My
peace I give to you” (εἰρήνην τὴν ἐμὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν). These words resemble what
God says according to Hag 2:9: “And in this place I will give peace” 22 (LXX: καὶ
ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ δώσω εἰρήνην). Does the Johannine Jesus allude to these OT
words in their LXX version, as is assumed in NA27? First of all, the reference
specifically to the LXX is out of place: the LXX translation of the words from Hag
2:9 is completely literal and straightforward (the MT reads Nt) hzh Mwqmbw
Mwl#). Besides, there are other OT texts as well speaking of God giving peace,
where the LXX has διδόναι and εἰρήνη; 23 some of these agree with Hag 2:9 LXX
and John 14:27 in having a 1st person singular form of διδόναι (Lev 26:6; 1 Chr
22:9; Jer 14:13). There is then no specific relation between John 14:27 and Hag
2:9, but the evangelist transposes to Jesus what is said more than once in the OT
about God. Once again John appears to refer to an OT theme, not to a particular
OT passage.

3,16 John 16:21 and Mic 4:9

According to John 16:21, another fragment of the farewell discourse, Jesus says to
his disciples: “When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has
come.” The contrast between the birth pangs and the joy when the child has been
born serves to elucidate the contrast between the sorrow of the disciples when
Jesus goes away, and their joy when he will see them again (16:21-22). In the
margin of NA27 there is one OT reference at John 16:21: to Isa 26:17, where
Israel’s distress in seeking the Lord is compared to the pangs of a woman “when
she is near her time”. UBS4 offers more OT references, including one to a Minor
Prophets passage: Isa 13:8; 21:3 and Mic 4:9 are mentioned in addition to Isa
26:17. But these are not the only OT instances of comparison of distress with birth
pangs: one could add several more. 24 In none of these passages does the LXX

22 The NRSV translates the Hebrew Mwl# by “prosperity”. “This place” is the temple in
23 Lev 26:6; Num 6:26; 1 Chr 22:9; Isa 26:12; Jer 14:13. Cf. further Num 25:12; Sir 50:23.
24 Ps 48:7; Isa 66:7-8; Jer 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 30:6; 49:24; 50:43.
82 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

make use of the Johannine term λυπή, “pain”. So John takes up a general OT
image; there is no reason to assume here an allusion to Mic 4:9 in particular.

3.17 John 16:32 and Zech 13:7

At the end of his farewell discourse, the Johannine Jesus says to his disciples: “The
hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered (σκορπισθῆτε),
each one to his home, and you will leave me alone” (John 16:32). Do we have here
an allusion to Zech 13:7 (“Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered”)?
If so, the allusion is not very close to the biblical text; it is in any case closer to the
Hebrew text than to the LXX, where “to be scattered” is missing. However, John’s
wording resembles the marked quotation from Zech 13:7 in Mark 14:27 par.,
where we find διασκορπισθήσονται, “they [the sheep] will be scattered”. Besides,
the quotation occurs at approximately the same point in the gospel narrative, and
the synoptic quotation and John’s supposed allusion have the same function: with
it, Jesus announces the near defection of the disciples. So there is a marker,
referring the reader or listener not so much to Zechariah as to the pre-Johannine
Christian use of Zech 13:7 in the context of Jesus’ passion.
It may look a bit hazardous to establish an allusion on the basis of the single
word σκορπισθῆτε. However, within John’s Gospel this single word creates an
intratextual relationship with the shepherd discourse in John 10. The same verb
σκορπίζειν is used in 10:12: the wolf “scatters” the sheep in the absence of “the
good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep” (cf. 10:11). Through this
intratextual link the struck shepherd (identified with Jesus) and the sheep
(identified with the disciples) of Zech 13:7 are indirectly present in John 16:32.
Just as in the synoptic quotation, John’s allusion serves to show that the
defection of the disciples had been foreseen in Scripture. Because Zech 13:7 is part
of a prophecy that concerns the time of the end, the allusion also helps to interpret
Jesus’ death as an anticipation of the eschaton. The words “the hour is coming,
indeed it has come”, that introduce the allusion, make clear that in John’s view the
death of Jesus is the eschaton. That—as Mark and Matthew suggest—God strikes
Jesus, is absent from John; his Jesus says, on the contrary: “Yet I am not alone
because the Father is with me” (16:32; see Hanson 1991, 196-197). 25 In any case:
the allusion is meaningful in the Johannine context.

4. Conclusion
Application of the definition of, and the criteria for, an allusion to the supposed
allusions to the Minor Prophets in John’s Gospel, as listed in NA27 and UBS4, has
led to the following results. There are allusions to Mal 3:23 in John 1:21, to Zeph

25 Zech 13:7 is also quoted in CD XIX 7-9, as an announcement of the coming judgment.
MENKEN Allusions to the Minor Prophets in the Fourth Gospel 83

3:13 in John 1:47, to Zech 14:21 in John 2:16, to Mal 3:1 in John 3:28, to Mal 2:10
in John 8:41, to Zech 1:5 in John 8:52-53, to Jonah 1:12-15 in John 11:50, and to
Zech 13:7 in John 16:32. In some cases (John 1:21; 3:28; 16:32), the allusion is
rather to the early Christian interpretation of the OT text than to the OT text itself.
The reference to Micah 5:1 in John 7:42 is correct, but here we do not have an
allusion but a “rewritten quotation”. Supposed allusions that do not stand the test
are those to Zeph 3:15 in John 1:49, to Zech 14:8 in John 4:10, to Mal 1:11 in John
4:21, to Mic 6:15 in John 4:37, to Hos 6:2 in John 5:21, to Joel 4:18 in John 7:38,
to Mal 1:6 in John 8:49, to Zeph 3:15 in John 12:13, to Hag 2:9 in John 14:27, and
to Mic 4:9 in John 16:21. In the case of John 8:49, it is not Mal 1:6 but the
Decalogue commandment to honour one’s father that is alluded to. The main
reason to reject supposed allusions is that there are no clear markers in the NT text
that unambiguously point to one specific OT text as their source.
I have tried to make my perceptions, arguments and decisions to either
retain or reject these allusions explicit and verifiable, as part of the process of
intersubjective testing of allusions. Maybe this can be a viable way to arrive at
some sort of modest consensus in this field. What I have done with John’s (real and
supposed) allusions to the Minor Prophets, can of course also be done with other
NT allusions to the OT. What has, in any case, become clear to me once again, is
that the OT references given in editions and translations of the NT (and in
commentaries) should never be taken for granted. 26

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Brill [BIS 96].
Ben-Porat, Z. 1976. The Poetics of Literary Allusion. PTL: A Journal for Descriptive
Poetics and Theory of Literature 1:105-128.
Brooke, G.J. 1988. Christ and the Law in John 7–10. Pages 102-112 and 180-184 in Law
and Religion: Essays on the Place of the Law in Israel and Early Christianity.
Edited by B. Lindars. Cambridge: Clarke.
Brown, R.E. 1966. The Gospel according to John (i-xii). Garden City, NY: Doubleday [AB
Hanson, A.T. 1991. The Prophetic Gospel: A Study of John and the Old Testament.
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Hays, R.B. 1989. Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. New Haven: Yale University
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26 I thank Dr J.M. Court for polishing my English.

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Aldershot: Ashgate.
Köstenberger, A.J. 2007. John. Pages 415-512 in Commentary on the New Testament Use of
the Old Testament. Edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI:
Baker; Nottingham: Apollos.
Lange, T. de 2008. Abraham in John 8,31-59: His Significance in the Conflict between
Johannine Christianity and its Jewish Environment. Amsterdam: Amphora.
Leonhardt-Balzer, J. 2009. The Minor Prophets in the Judaism of the Second Temple
Period. Pages 7-25 in in The Minor Prophets in the New Testament (The New
Testament and the Scriptures of Israel). Edited by M.J.J. Menken and S. Moyise.
London: T&T Clark [LNTS 377].
Meinhold, A. 2006. Maleachi. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag [BKAT 14/8].
Menken, M.J.J. 1996. Old Testament Quotations in the Fourth Gospel: Studies in Textual
Form. Kampen: Kok Pharos [CBET 15].
Menken, M.J.J. 2009. The Minor Prophets in John’s Gospel. Pages 79-96 in The Minor
Prophets in the New Testament (The New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel).
Edited by M.J.J. Menken and S. Moyise. London: T&T Clark [LNTS 377].
Moloney, F.J. 1998. The Gospel of John. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press [SP 4].
Moyise, S. 2008. Evoking Scripture: Seeing the Old Testament in the New. London: T&T
Obermann, A. 1996. Die christologische Erfüllung der Schrift im Johannesevangelium: Eine
Untersuchung zur johanneischen Hermeneutik anhand der Schriftzitate. Tübingen:
Mohr Siebeck [WUNT 2/83].
Schnelle, U. et al., eds. 2001. Neuer Wettstein: Texte zum Neuen Testament aus
Griechentum und Hellenismus, I/2: Texte zum Johannesevangelium. Berlin: de
Gruyter, 2001.
Schuchard, B.G. 1992. Scripture within Scripture: The Interrelationship of Form and
Function in the Explicit Old Testament Citations in the Gospel of John. Atlanta:
Scholars Press [SBLDS 133].
Stanley, C.D. 1999 “Pearls before Swine”: Did Paul’s Audiences Understand His Biblical
Quotations?. NovT 41:124-144.

John G. Nordling
Concordia Theological Seminary

Recent scholarship draws distinctions between ancient ‘roaming’ slaves (errones)
and runaways (fugitivi), and suggests further that Onesimus was a menial in the
employ of his master Philemon. Pertinent evidence in the parables and extra-
biblical material suggests, however, that (1) the line between ‘roaming’ and running
away was muddled; (2) Onesimus could have been a highly trusted slave in
Philemon’s household, not a menial; and (3) responsible slaves had access to the
master’s wealth, were capable of betraying trusting masters and mistresses without
provocation, and were susceptible to the type of servile diversions one easily
imagines Onesimus fell prey to. Light cast on Onesimus’ likely role in the
household of Philemon continues to favour the runaway slave hypothesis in

Although many support—with great enthusiasm—the idea that Onesimus ran away
from Philemon, 2 comparatively few have attempted to shed light on the particular
circumstances themselves that possibly attended Onesimus’ flight. The fathers of
the church assumed that Onesimus ran away, 3 and it has been suggested that
certain details within the letter provide “solid support for the runaway slave
hypothesis” (Nordling 1991, 108). 4 Some scholars remain opposed to the runaway

1 An earlier form of the paper was presented to fourth year Theology students in a seminar on
Paul and the Pauline literature within the Department of New Testament Studies at the
Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, on 19 May 2009. I would like to thank Dr. Kirk
Freudenburg, Professor of Latin, Department of Classics, Yale University, for suggestions
used in this article’s conclusion; Matthew Zickler, a student and technical assistant at
Concordia Theological Seminary, for help accessing the online Duke Database of
Documentary Papyri (DDBDP); Dr. David Coles, Seconded Professor of Historical
Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, for help with secondary scholarship in French;
and Professor Roland Ziegler, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia
Theological Seminary, for help with secondary scholarship in German.
2 For surveys of scholars who support traditional views cf. Nordling 1991, 97-8 n.1; 2004, 4
3 Nordling 1991, 118 n.1; 2004, 244-245 nn.31-34; Gorday 2000, 315-316.
4 The passages elaborated upon in Nordling 1991, 107-114 were “whom I am sending on to
you [ὃν ἀνέπεμψά σοι]” (Phlm 12a); “for perhaps for this reason he was separated for a while
Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 85-121
© New Testament Society of South Africa
86 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

slave hypothesis in principle, 5 and I shall be among the first to admit that the
evidence—such as it is—can be interpreted variously. However, I also insist that
the foundations upon which the runaway slave hypothesis rests in Philemon are
sound. Thus, there could have been “a… pattern of runaway slave behaviour”
(Nordling 1991, 99) to which Onesimus conformed before his conversion and
return to Philemon bearing Paul’s letter. 6 This article, then, brings forward some
additional matters favouring the runaway slave hypothesis in Philemon. I shall
examine, in particular, the overlap between servile “roaming” and “running away”
that existed in antiquity, and the likelihood that Onesimus was a managerial slave
in Philemon’s employ, not a menial. Next, I will consider extra-biblical evidence
demonstrating that responsible slaves could have routine access to the master’s
wealth, were capable of betraying trusting masters and mistresses sometimes, and
were susceptible to the sort of servile diversions to which one suspects Onesimus
might have yielded. Finally, I shall attempt to respond to the most damning
criticism to be leveled against the runaway slave hypothesis thus far: that
traditional scholars “read in” interpretative backgrounds not warranted by the text.
The results of investigations conducted here continue to favour the runaway slave
hypothesis in Philemon.

I. Was Onesimus a Roaming Slave (Erro) or Runaway

Arzt-Grabner (2001a; 2004, 141-142) has prepared for Paul’s letter an
interpretation in which he argues, among other things, that Onesimus was “a

[τάχα γὰρ διὰ τοῦτο ἐχωρίσθη πρὸς ὥραν]” (Phlm 15a); “and if he has wronged you in any
way or owes anything, charge this to my account [εἰ δέ τι ἠδίκησέν σε ἢ ὀφείλει, τοῦτο ἐμοὶ
ἐλλόγα]” (Phlm 18); “I appeal to you on behalf of my child [παρακαλῶ σε περὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ
τέκνου]” (Phlm 10a).
5 E.g., Callahan 1997, 5-6: “Nowhere is it explicitly stated that Onesimus had run away, and
the motive for such action is equally obscure. The entire fugitive slave hypothesis was
cogently challenged by John Knox [1959] ... Arguments for the untenability of the fugitive
slave hypothesis have been recovered from the rubble only recently and augmented in the
independent treatments of Peter Lampe [1985, 135-137] and Sarah Winter [1984, 203-212;
1987, 1-15]”.
6 For Onesimus’ conversion cf. Lightfoot 1886, 311; Vincent 1897, 158; Goodenough 1929,
183; Lohse 1971, 187; Houlden 1977, 226; O’Brien 1982, 267; Lampe 1985, 137; Wright
1986, 181-182; Llewelyn 1992, 59; Kirkland 1995, 112; Dunn 1996, 305, 323, 328; Taylor
1996, 259, 274-78; Wansink 1996, 177-178, 182; Llewelyn 1998, 43; Barth and Blanke 2000,
330-331; Fitzmyer 2000, 107; Nordling 2000, 251; 2004, 223, 234-239, 244 n.30, 244-245 n.
34, 248; Kreitzer 2008, 46-47. For Onesimus’ return to Philemon bearing Paul’s letter cf.
Lightfoot 1886, 312-13; Vincent 1897, 158; Bruce 1965-66, 97; Lohse 1971, 187; O’Brien
1982, 268; Nordling 1991, 108-109; 2007, 79; Llewelyn 1992, 59; Dunn 1996, 40, 328; Arzt-
Grabner 2004, 131; Kreitzer 2008, 47.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon 87

roaming slave” (Lat. erro) but not a runaway (fugitivus), a position shared by
Lampe (1985, 137) and others (e.g., Dunn 1996, 304-06; Fitzmyer 2000, 20).
Legally, an erro was “a vagrant slave” who left his master’s house in order to roam
about and who, “after spending his [the slave’s own] money”, returned to his
master (Berger 1953, 456). Negatively, the reason why Onesimus had to be an
erro, according to Arzt-Grabner (2001a, 605), was because “there are no explicit
hints [for the runaway slave hypothesis] in the text [of Philemon]”. Positively,
Arzt-Grabner believes evidence afforded by pertinent extra-biblical papyri favours
the roaming slave theory over that of the runaway slave hypothesis. Here are two
passages in Philemon, supplemented by papyri Arzt-Grabner believes support the
roaming slave theory:

 the phrase that Onesimus was “once... useless” to Philemon ([Ὀνήσιμον...] τόν
ποτέ σοι ἄχρηστον, Phlm 11) is thought to correspond to the phrase “for you
know how I need him every hour [οἶδας γὰρ πῶς αὐτοῦ | ἑκάστης ὥρας
χρήζω{ι}]” (BGU I 37.6-7; 12 September CE 50; in Arzt-Grabner 2001a, 606;
2003, 210; 2004, 135 n. 18); 7
 the phrase “he [Onesimus] was parted from you for a while” (ἐχωρίσθη πρὸς
ὥραν, Phlm 15) is thought to correspond to the phrase “and he did not dare to
land here, but he went away [χωρισθέντος] to the Herakleopolite nome [καὶ
ὧδε μὲν οὐκέτι τολμήσαντος ἀποβῆναι, εἰς δὲ τὸν Ἡρακλεοπολίτην |
χωρισθέντος]” (UPZ 1.19.13-14; Memphis, 163 BCE; in Arzt-Grabner 2001a,
607; emphasis added).

These examples suggest that correspondences between the text of Philemon and
the documentary papyri can be quite subtle. Indeed, the first example above shows
only surface similarities between the documentary papyri and Paul’s letter to
Philemon. Nevertheless, further consideration of Arzt-Grabner’s work reveals that
there are in fact many significant correspondences. We will consider more of these
in Part II below.
Here let us probe Arzt-Grabner’s theory that Onesimus was not a runaway
(fugitivus) but was instead a roaming slave (erro). In a rescript that should be
considered quite pertinent to Arzt-Grabner’s argument, I note, first, that in efforts
used to track down runaways in order to bring them to justice, the line between
fugitivi and errones seems quite blurred:
Unusquisque eorum, qui fugitivum adpraehendit, in publicum deducere debet. Et
merito monentur magistratus eos diligenter custodire, ne evadant. Fugitivum accipe
et si quis erro sit. Fugitivi autem appellatione ex fugitiva natum non contineri
Labeo libro primo ad edictum scribit.

The papyrus appears also in Olsson 1924, 96-98; Deissmann 1927, 170-71; White 1986, 138.
88 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Every person who apprehends a runaway [qui fugitivum adpraehendit] must produce
him in public. Magistrates are rightly warned to keep careful guard on them in case
they escape. “Runaway” should be interpreted as covering a truant as well
[fugitivum accipe et si quis erro sit]. But Labeo, in the first book of Edict, writes
that the term “runaway” does not include a child born to a female runaway (Dig., citing Ulpian [CE 211-222] and Labeo [flor. CE 1-5; died ca. CE 15];
trans. Watson 1985, 1.345). 8
Hence the problem with Arzt-Grabner’s examples from the documentary
papyri—as pertinent as several of them are—is that quite often it is impossible to
tell whether the ancients really had slave runaways in mind, or mere wanderers (or
“truants”, following Watson’s translation of the word erro in the passage above).
The texts Arzt-Grabner cites do not preserve a clear distinction between wanderers
and runaways, which must represent overlapping categories. Indeed, the law code
cited above states that the term “runaway” should be “interpreted as covering a
truant as well” (fugitivum accipe et si quis erro sit; trans. Watson 1985, 1.345), and
there are additional examples in Roman literature wherein the words “runaway”
(fugitivus) and “wanderer” (erro) occur literally in the same breath. 9 Two more
examples suggest that “running away” and “wandering” could be used virtually

 “And while amusing himself with other slaves [vernaculis], the careless
vagabond [vagus atque erro] found Plato without looking for him” (younger
Seneca, Ben. 6.11.2, Basore, LCL [of a slave sent on the errand of finding Plato
in the marketplace]);
 “Nevertheless, he too [the king bee] must be despoiled of his wings when he oft-
times attempts to break out with his swarm and fly away [profugere]; for, if we
strip him of his wings, we shall keep the vagrant chieftain [erronem ducem] as
though in fetters chained, who, deprived of the resources of flight [fugae
destitutus praesidio], ventures not to leave the confines of his realm” (Columella,
Rust. 9.10.3, Forster and Heffner, LCL [agricultural treatise]).

Second, as to Arzt-Grabner’s observation (2001a, 605) that “there are no

explicit hints” for the runaway slave hypothesis in Philemon, let us briefly consider
my original argument that it would not have served Paul’s conciliatory purpose had
he been more forthright about the issue that undoubtedly obliged him to write the

8 Although the Digest was not published until CE 533-534 (Jones 1970, 571), it contains the
names and legal pronouncements of many earlier jurisprudents. I have used the dates for
Labeo and Ulpian provided in Clark 1906, 156-63.
9 Elder Seneca Contr. 7.6.23: “He is not a runaway or a vagrant [fugitivum, erronem non esse]”
(my trans.); Horace Sat. 2.7.113-14: “you shun yourself, a runaway and vagabond [fugitivus
et erro], seeking now with wine, and now with sleep, to baffle care” (my trans.).
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon 89

letter to Philemon in the first place (Nordling 1991, 118-19; cf. Byron 2004, 129;
Kreitzer 2008, 68). Thus, Paul referred to Onesimus’ illicit activities
“euphemistically” (Meyer 1880, 378; Nordling 2004, 244). As Garland (1998,
300) has suggested, a runaway slave incident would have involved others beyond
the one fugitivus, and such a situation could only have set the master in a bad
light—especially if (as most surmise) master Philemon was a Christian: “It caused
a master to lose face as one who could not control his slaves or as a brutal master
who drove his slaves to try something desperate” (Garland 1998, 300 n. 29; cf.
Llewelyn 1992, 60). Garland’s further comparison (1998, 300) between household
dynamics that quite possibly lay behind Onesimus’ theft and flight and the kind of
“sexual molestation and violence” that can infiltrate Christian homes yet today
seems apropos. I maintain, then, that the nature of the situation required the utmost
diplomacy on Paul’s part, and that tact and diplomacy go farthest in explaining the
famous obliqueness that has become such a distinguishing feature of the letter
(e.g., White 1971, 36; Wilson 1992, 118). Modern pastors, counselors, therapists,
and anyone else involved in the sordid affairs of others should be able to see why
Paul could not, in effect, have crassly blurted, “Hey, Philemon! Forgive Onesimus
for having stolen so much property from you and for having run away. Then send
him right back to me, okay?” (Nordling 2004, 142; original emphases). Arzt-
Grabner realizes (2001a, 605 n. 93; 2004, 132 n. 7), in fact, that the letter’s lack of
explicitness could well have been caused by Paul’s “pastoral discretion” in the
matter (citing Nordling 1991, 118), yet fails to take seriously the impact that such
discretion would have had to have on Paul’s word choice and written style.
It cannot be denied, of course, that—legally speaking—there was indeed a
distinction between “running away” and “wandering”:
sed proprie erronem sic definimus: qui non quidem fugit, sed frequenter sine causa
vagatur et temporibus in res nugatorias consumptis serius domum redit.
However, if we wish to be accurate, we define a wanderer as one who does not
indeed run away but frequently indulges in aimless roaming and, after wasting time
on trivialities, returns home at a late hour (Dig., Ulpian; trans. Watson
1985, 2.607).
Ulpian provided this distinction because the earlier jurist Labeo defined an erro as
a “petty runaway” (pusillum fugitivum) and—to put it differently (ex diverso)—a
fugitivus as a “great wanderer” (magnum erronem). 10 Arzt-Grabner notes the
distinction, 11 but fails to make much of it; I merely point out that definitions—

10 Justinian Digest erronem ita definit Labeo pusillum fugitivum esse, et ex diverso
fugitivum magnum erronem esse. Cf. Harrill 1999, 136.
11 Arzt-Grabner 2004, 141 n. 43: “Ulpian schreibt dies gegen Labeo, der den erro zu vereinfacht
definiert als pusillus fugitivus (‘kleinen Flüchtigen’) und umgekehrt den fugitivus als magnus
erro (‘großen Herumtrieber’; Dig. 21,1,17,14)”.
90 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

especially for Labeo—seem quite muddled: “Labeo defines them as greater and
less degrees of the same offence” (Buckland 1908, 55). To be sure, Ulpian tried to
tidy things up (above) but his attempts at greater exactitude must indicate that also
for him there was considerable overlap, and another jurist, Callistratus (CE 193-
205), attempted to distinguish still more finely between “simple runaways”
(fugitivi simplices) and “runaways” of yet other kinds (Digest 11.4.2). It must have
been difficult to determine just what the categories were:
The Digest ... records a complex historical development (over a period of at least
two hundred years) for the technical term servus fugitivus, whose final definition
could not be found without resorting to excessively fine distinctions in reasoning.
The relevance of all this hairsplitting for the exegesis of Philemon is difficult to see
(Harrill 1999, 136; cf. Byron 2008, 129).
At any rate, it seems obvious that—from the perspectives of Paul and Philemon
in the mid-fifties to early sixties CE 12 —there could not have been too great a
difference between “running away” and “roaming” either. There may, indeed,
have been a different “attitude of mind” between the two activities (Buckland
1908, 56), but one senses that Paul would not have been overly concerned about
maintaining minute legal distinctions between two categories that seem easily to
have coalesced, both in the legal codes and in practicality. 13 On the other hand,
Paul would have cared a lot about the sort of crimes on Onesimus’ part that could
have put Philemon and the house congregation at peril. We will consider several
of the more well-known crimes in Part III below; here it is enough to point out that
the words “if he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything” (εἰ δέ τι ἠδίκησέν
σε ἢ ὀφείλει, 18a RSV) need not be so “vague” as has sometimes been suggested
(e.g., Llewelyn 1998, 40). Indeed, this part of Paul’s letter may actually contain a
quite telling hint of illicit activities once undertaken by Onesimus against his
master Philemon:

Onesimus is the implicit subject of the verbs “to do wrong” (ἀδικέω) and
“to owe” (ὀφείλω). These two verbs occur in documents designating the
illegal activities of people who refuse to pay debts and so incur criminal
prosecution. In one papyrus, for example, Attalus complains, “I am being
wronged” (ἀδικοῦμαι) by Ptolemaios in the matter of a failed debt. 14 In

12 I have accepted the dating of Kreitzer (2008, 2).

13 Harrill 1999, 137: “If Cicero and Quintilian conducted their daily affairs in Rome with little
contact or regard for the technical deliberations of the iurisconsulti, then provincials like the
apostle Paul and Philemon would have had even less contact with, and concern for, such
14 “I am being wronged by Ptolemaios, younger [son] of the Ptolemaios [who is] the tax-
gatherer of private affairs [ἀδικοῦμαι ὑπὸ Πτολεμαίο[υ μεί]ους τοῦ Πτολεμαίου πράκτορος
ἰδιωτικῶν]” (P.Mich. I 71.1; Philadelphia, 247-221 BCE; my trans.). That the verb ἀδικέω in
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon 91

another, Demetrius proceeds against several guarantors who owe (ὀφείλων)

hundreds... of unpaid drachmas for olive oil and wine. 15
Paul’s use of this same terminology provides a clue as to the sort of
activity in which Onesimus may well have engaged before his estrangement
from Philemon and flight: probably fraud and/or financial mismanagement.
Yet Paul deemphasizes Onesimus’[s] infidelities by casting them into a
conditional clause: “If [εἰ] he has wronged you...”. That way the emphasis
rests on Paul’s all-important promise to make amends: “Charge this to my
account. I, Paul, ... will repay” (vv 18b-19a) (Nordling 2004, 261-262;
original emphases). 16

the passive voice meant “to be wronged” financially is suggested by the following examples:
“So I beg you, if it seems right to you, don’t overlook that I have been wronged by him [μὴ
περιιδῆς με ἀδικηθέντα ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ]” (P.Mich. I 71.6; Philadelphia, 247-221 BCE); “I am
being wronged [ἀδικοῦμαι] by one Pasinosiris and Theodotos ... and Horos” (P.Mich. III
173.3; III cent. BCE); “your kindheartedness persuades those who have been wronged [τοὺς
ἀδικηθέντας] to approach you fearlessly” (P.Berl.Frisk 3.6-7; Arsinoe, CE 211-212); “I won’t
allow you to be wronged [οὐκ ἀφῶ σε ἀδικηθ(έντα)]” (CPR VIII 84.6; VII-VIII cent. CE).
That the same verb in the passive may also occur non-technically is suggested by the
following: “we found the workers of the apparatus completely overcome by the fire [ἀπὸ
πυρὸς ἀδι|κηθέντας τέλεον] and, having come to their aid [βοηθή|σαντες], we put out the fire”
(P.Oxy. XL 2297.11-15; Oxyrhynchus, CE 214; my trans.).
15 “...owing me [ὀφείλων μοι] as a price for olives [πρὸς τι|μὴν ἐλαίας] 1300 drachmas”
(P.Mich. III 173.7-8; III cent. BCE; my trans.). I shall provide a translation of the first
seventeen lines of P.Mich. III 173 in Part III below. Here it is enough to mention that this
papyrus is riddled with formulae that occur in many papyri of this type, e.g., for ὀφείλων μοι
(“owing me”, P.Mich. III 173.7) cf. BGU VI 1255.10 (I cent. BCE); P.Enteux 35.2 (Magdola;
222 BCE); P.Hib. I 30.D.15 (Hibeh; 300-271 BCE); P.Stras. IV 210.12 (Arsnome; CE 90-
96); for ὀφείλων (“owing”, P.Mich. III 173.27) cf. P.Mich. V 314.4 (Tebtunis; I cent. CE);
P.Mich. IX 554.34, 51 (Karanis; CE 81-96), etc.; for προσωφείλησεν (“he owed”, P.Mich. III
173.21-22) cf. BGU VII 1506.16 (Philadelphia; III BCE); P.Cair.Zen. III 59366.14
(Philadelphia; 241 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. III 59499.11 (Philadelphia; III cent. BCE); P.Cair.Zen.
IV 59645.2 (Philadelphia; III cent. BCE); P.Cair.Zen. IV 59651.6 (Philadelphia; III cent.
BCE); P.Eleph. 27.12 (Elephantine; 223-222 BCE); P.Grad. 10A.12, 39 (Tholthis; 215-214
BCE); P.Grad. 10B.17 (Tholthis; 215-214 BCE); P.Lond. VII 2153.7 (Philadelphia; III cent.
BCE); PSI V 510.11 (Philadelphia; 254-253 BCE); P.Tebt. III 815.2.17-18 (Tebtunis; 228-
221 BCE); P.Tebt. III 818.16 (Tebtunis; 174 BCE); P.Tebt. III 884.3.44 (Tebtunis; 210 BCE).
16 In response to Martin’s assertion (1991, 333) that, on account of the conditional clause (εἰ) in
Phlm 18a, we cannot say “with certainty that Onesimus harmed or injured (ἠδίκησεν)
Philemon” (original emphasis), one might fairly reply that we also cannot say—with
certainty—that Onesimus did not harm or injure Philemon. Pearson points out (1999, 269) that
first-class conditionals “carry the least interpretative weight”. If possible, the greater context of
the letter should determine the situation (Robertson and Davis 1979, 350; Glaze 1996, 8-9), not
the type of condition the sentence may be.
92 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

II. Onesimus’ Likely Occupation

It would help to know what job the slave Onesimus held in Philemon’s household,
although “we do not know anything precise about [his] duties” (Arzt-Grabner
2001a, 600). Although Arzt-Grabner mentions a wide range of occupations in
which Onesimus (or any slave) might possibly have engaged, 17 he does not
suppose that Onesimus’ rank in Philemon’s household was very high and he
speculates further that Onesimus probably was “working in the house or in the
fields of Philemon”, or perhaps was a “messenger or craftsman” (Arzt-Grabner
2001a, 601). The reason why Onesimus’ servitude could not have been very high,
according to Arzt-Grabner, is because several turns of phrase in Philemon lead one
to suspect that Paul was familiar with apprentice contracts, particularly those
associated with a specialized type of weaver known as a ταρσικάριος (“weaver of
Tarsian fabrics”, Liddell, Scott and Jones 1940, 1759 s.v. ταρσικάριος). 18 Thus,
when Paul reminds Philemon in verse 8 that he has much boldness in Christ “to
command” Philemon (ἐπιτάσσειν σοι), this could indicate Paul’s awareness of
apprenticeships in weaving contracts of about the same time period wherein the
verb ἐπιτάσσω occurs. E.g., in CE 66, a certain Tryphon, son of Dionysios, a
citizen of Oxyrhynchus, entered into a written agreement with Ptolemaios, son of
Pausirion, “weaver” (γέρδιος), that Thounis, Tryphon’s son, would “do everything
ordered to him by Ptolemaios according to the entire weaver’s craft [ποιο[ῦ]ντα
πάντα τὰ ἐπιτασσόμε-|να αὐτῷ ὑπὸ τοῦ Πτολεμαίου κατὰ τὴν | γερδιακὴν τέχνην
πᾶσαν]” (P.Oxy. II 275.11-13; Oxyrhynchus; my trans.). As the formula occurs
several other places with minor variations, 19 it seems papyri nearly contemporary
with Paul’s letter to Philemon shed a considerable light on the apostle’s right “to
command” Philemon (ἐπιτάσσειν σοι, Phlm 8). Arzt-Grabner mines the papyri to

17 Arzt-Grabner 2001a, 600: “We find slaves in domestic service or in agriculture, we find them
as messengers, craftsmen, stenographers, musicians, as rented nurses and prostitutes, but also
as managers and trustees for their owners, or within the Roman administration”.
18 Lexicographers use the following passages to support this definition: P.Lips. 26.9 [IV CE];
P.Lips. 89.2 [CE 379?]). I am able to provide these additional passages: BGU III 738.3 (CE
323-642); BGU III 750.5 (21 August CE 655); CPR XIV 16.9-10 (8 September 674 CE);
P.Bodl. I 27.19 (II CE); P.Lond. II 387.3, 4 (VI-VII CE); P.Palaurib. 14.6 (26 January-24
February CE 431); P.Ross.Georg. III 56.3 (26 April-25 May CE 707); P.Stras. VII 618.24
(ca. CE 310-320); PSI IV 287.4 (29 December CE 377); PSI.Congr. XVII 27.4 (beginning IV
CE); SB I 4664.5 (21 December CE 665?); Stud. Pal. III 190.1 (9 June CE 710); Stud. Pal. III
658R.2 (VI CE); Stud.Pal. VIII 1081.1 (VII-VIII CE). For some helpful studies in English,
cf. Westermann 1914; Wild 1969; van Minnen 1987.
19 E.g., ποι|οῦντα πάντα τὰ ἐπιτασσόμενα αὐτῶι | ὑπὸ τοῦ Σεύθου κατὰ τὴν γερδιακὴν τέ|χνην
(P.Oxy. XLI 2971.9-12 [CE 66]); ποιοῦντα π[άντα τ]ὰ ἐπιτασσόμενα αὐτῶι | ὑπὸ τοῦ
Ἡρᾶ[τος] κατὰ τὴν γερδιακὴν | τέχνην (P.Oxy.Hels. 29.12-14 [CE 54]); ποιοῦντ[α τὰ] ἔργα
πάντα τὰ ἐπι|τα[σσ]όμενα α[ὐτῷ] ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀβάρου | κατὰ τὴν γερδιακ[ὴ]ν τέχνην (SB X
10236.13-15 [CE 36]).
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon 93

account for several additional phrases in Philemon that seem just as suggestive,
 the phrase, “that he might serve me [ἵνα ... μοι διακονῇ, Phlm 13b]” corresponds to the
phrase, “serving [διακονοῦντα] and doing all the deeds that shall be ordered him by
Abaros according to the weavers’ trade [διακονοῦν|τα κ[αὶ] ποιοῦντ[α τὰ] ἔργα πάντα τὰ
ἐπι|τα[σσ]όμενα α[ὐτῷ] ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀβάρου | κατὰ τὴν γερδιακ[ὴ]ν τέχνην]” (SB X
10236.12-15; CE 52; in Arzt-Grabner 2001b, 72-73; 2003, 67);20
 the phrase, “apart from your consent [χωρὶς δὲ τῆς σῆς γνώμης, Phlm 14a]” corresponds
to the phrase, “without his own consent [ἄνευ γ[ε] | τῆς ἑαυτοῦ γνώμης]” (Stud.Pal.
XXII 40.18-19; CE 140; in Arzt-Grabner 2001b, 73 and 2003, 219 n. 145);
 the phrase, “I will repay [ἐγὼ ἀποτίσω, Phlm 19a]” corresponds to the phrase, “If he
does not perform [ποιή[σῃ]] all the tasks, let him pay back [ἀποτεισάτω] to the master
for each day wherein he was idle one drachma of silver [ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ποιή[σῃ πάντα] | τὰ
[ἔρ]γα ἀποτεισάτω τῶι δι[δασκάλωι] | ἑκ[άσ]της ἡμέρας, ἧς ἐὰν ἀτακ[τήσηι] | [σηι],
[ἀ]ρ̣γυρίου δραχμὴ̣ν̣ [μ]ί̣α̣ν̣” (P.Wisc. I 4.20-23; CE 53; in Arzt-Grabner 2001b, 74 n. 12;
2003, 68); 21
 the phrase, “you owe to me your very self in addition [καὶ σεαυτόν μοι προσοφείλεις,
Phlm 19b]” corresponds to the phrase, “And if I transgress in any way, I shall at once
pay you for the damages and costs and whatever salaries I may still owe in addition
[προσοφείλω], increased by one half [ἐὰν δ᾿ ἔν τινι παραβαίν[ω] ἐκτείσω σοὶ παραχρῆμα
τά τε βλάβη [καὶ] δαπ[ανήματα] | καὶ οὓς ἐὰν προσοφείλω μισθοὺς σὺν ἡμιολίᾳ]”
(P.Fouad 37.8-9; 13 April CE 48; in Arzt-Grabner 2001b, 74; 2003, 245). 22

20 The following formulae are very similar: “serving [διακονοῦ(ν)-|τα] and doing all the things
that have been ordered him by Ptolemaios according to the entire weavers’ trade
[διακονοῦ(ν)-|τα καὶ ποιο[ῦ]ντα πάντα τὰ ἐπιτασσόμε-|να αὐτῷ ὑπὸ τοῦ Πτολεμαίου κατὰ τὴν
| γερδιακὴν τέχνην πᾶσαν]” (P.Oxy. II 275.10-13; CE 66); “serving [διακονοῦντα] and doing
all the things that have been ordered him [διακονοῦντα καὶ ποιουντα π[άντα τὰ] |
ἐπιτασσόμενα αὐτῶι]” (P.Wisc. I 4.9-10; CE 53); “serving [διακο[νοῦντα]] and doing all the
deeds that have been ordered him [καὶ ποιοῦντα τὰ ἐργα] | πάντα τὰ ἐπιτασσ̣[όμενα αὐτῷ] by
the same Paponous in accordance with the entire weaving craft which he himself will teach
the lad just as he is himself in charge at the previously mentioned time [ὑπὸ τοῦ αὐτοῦ] |
Παποντῶτος κατ[ὰ τὴν γερδιακὴν (?) τέχνην πᾶσαν (?)] | ἥνπερ καὶ αὐτὸς ἐ[κδιδάξει τὸν παῖδ
καθὼς καὶ αὐτὸς] | ἐπίσταται τῷ προκει̣[μένῳ χρόνῳ]” (SB XXIV 16253.6-11; CE 98-103).
21 For the formula, “let him repay so-and-so [ἀποτεισάτω + Dative]”, cf. P.Alex. 9.2 (I CE);
P.Athen. 14.26 (30 October CE 22); P.Oslo. II 16.10 (261-260 BCE); P.Tebt.Wall 12.26 (14-
23 June CE 101); C.Pap.Gr. I 24.11(23 July CE 87). For the more emphatic expression
προσαποτεισάτω + Dative (where the compound form of the verb is used), cf. P.Hamb. III
217.13 (I CE); P.Mert. III 109.17-18 (II CE); PSI X 1118.23 (CE 25-26).
22 For the expression, “I may owe in addition [προσοφείλω]”, cf. P.Cair.Zen. III 59317.12 (250
BCE); P.Cair.Zen. III 59516.21-22 (275-225 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. IV 59626.2-3 (275-225
BCE); P.Lond. VII 1940.73 (26 April 257 BCE).
94 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Many more examples could be added, and indeed Artz-Grabner’s

“papyrological” commentary on Philemon (2003) does nothing but establish clear,
convincing correspondences between Paul’s letter and the 1,791 papyri, ostraca,
and tablets I count in his commentary’s Verzeichnis (Arzt-Grabner 2003, 279-
307). 23 Arzt-Grabner shows repeatedly that Paul must have been familiar with all
pertinent legal and social aspects of Greco-Roman culture that the ancient
documents—and also Paul’s letter to Philemon—presume. Particularly convincing
are the following modest conclusions Arzt-Grabner puts forward in an article
wherein he attempts to draw connections between the work that transpired in
Philemon’s house and ancient weavers (2001b, 74-75): first, that St. Paul, the
working apostle, probably had a keen understanding of the apprentice contracts of
working men and women in then-contemporary society; second, that since Paul
was himself a working man by profession (Acts 18:3) 24 he could very well have
been familiar with every aspect of ancient craftsmanship, such as, e.g., weaving;
and third, that Paul quite possibly had himself been apprenticed by his own parents
to a “Webermeister oder Zeltmachermeister” during childhood—even though, as
Arzt-Grabner himself admits (2001b, 74)—this latter possibility “ist spekulativ”.
In conceding such points to Arzt-Grabner, however, one ought not imagine that
the latter’s scholarship is completely “the final word” on Philemon, first, because
even Arzt-Grabner overlooks pertinent papyrological corre-spondences
sometimes 25 and, second, the papyri illumine background aspects that may or may
not reflect situations encountered by Paul and those congregations for whom he
wrote: “As one might expect, by far the larger part of the evidence that can be
gained from the papyri informs us about socioeconomic realities rather than about
religious or, for that matter, theological issues” (Verheyden 2007, 440). 26 Thus,
not even on the basis of the papyrological nature of the evidence can it be
demonstrated that Onesimus had to be a menial. There was, to be sure, an old

23 For overwhelmingly positive reviews of Arzt-Grabner 2003 cf. Betz 2004; Vining 2004;
Chapa 2005; and Williams 2006.
24 Though exactly what σκηνοποιοί (“tentmakers” RSV) means is debated endlessly. Cf.
shifting consensuses in Haenchen 1971, 534; Hock 1978, 555-64; 1980; Barnett 1993, 925-
26; Szesnat 1993, 391-92; Fitzmyer 1998, 626; Still 2006, 781.
25 E.g., for the expression, “you owe to me your very self in addition [καὶ σεαυτόν μοι
προσοφείλεις, Phlm 19b]”, Arzt-Grabner (2001b,74; 2003, 245) inexplicably overlooks the
highly pertinent word προσοφείλεις in the following documents: P.Cair.Zen. III 59326.125
(13 February 249 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. IV 59564.1 (ca. 251 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. IV 59690.1
(257-256 BCE); P.Hal. 13.3-4 (III BCE); P.Lond. VII 1995.335 (October 251 BCE); P.Lond.
VII 2002.7-8 (ca. 13 February 249 BCE); SB I 4369.B.25 (III BCE). Arzt-Grabner (2003,
245) does, to be sure, note the occurrence of προσοφείλεις in P.Hib. I 63.14-15 (ca. 265
BCE); and O.Petr. 280.5 (13 September CE 53).
26 While technically a criticism of Arzt-Grabner, Kritzer, Papathomas, Winter 2006, the same is
no less true of perspectives adopted in Arzt-Grabner 2003.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon 95

association between manual labour and slavery, 27 but this is a conceit that Paul and
the first Christians by no means shared 28 so we should consider the possibility that
Onesimus’ servitude could have been of a much different nature than that
commonly presumed by scholars who often focus on such negative aspects of
slavery as violence 29 and sexual exploitation. 30 In fact, a much more positive view
of slavery is often warranted (Lyall 1984, 38, 125; Barclay 1991, 167; Byron 2004,
134, 136; 2008, 140-41; Nordling 2009).
What type of servitude might Onesimus have rendered, then? I believe a quite
pertinent parallel is afforded by the elite managerial slaves featured in several of
Jesus’ parables. Consider, e.g., the servant entrusted with supervision (Matt 24.45-
51//Luke 12:42-48): the master, on taking leave of the household, puts this faithful
and wise slave in charge of the other slaves “to give them their food at the proper
time” (τοῦ δοῦναι αὐτοῖς τὴν τροφὴν ἐν καιρῷ, Matt 24:45). 31 To be sure, this
managerial slave fails to measure up to his master’s trust and so begins to beat
(τύπτειν, Matt 24:49//Luke 12:45) his fellow slaves. The verb τύπτειν (in both
versions) represents the action of one who thinks he can behave as a master; 32
moreover, this same fellow “eats and drinks” (ἐσθίῃ ... καὶ πίνῃ, Matt 24:49) with

27 “Unbecoming to a gentleman ... and vulgar [illiberales ... et sordidi] are the means of
livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill;
for in their case the very wages they receive is a pledge of their slavery [ipsa merces
auctoramentum servitutis]” (Cicero Off. 1.150, Miller, LCL). The passage has received much
attention: Westermann 1955, 27 nn.75-76; Cowell 1961, 112, 114; Finley 1973, 41-43;
MacMullen 1974, 115 n. 86; Shelton 1988, 129-30; Barnett 1993, 927; Bradley 1994, 65.
28 Nordling 2008, 13: “The New Testament reflects a quite different attitude toward work from
that encountered in the classical sources. Much had to do with the first Christians’ physical
and social environments. Theirs simply was a world of work and trade, of craftsmen and
craftswomen in constant engagement with other artisans along the trade routes of the Roman
empire: a world of tools and product, of conversations exchanged between customers,
employers, and employees at the shop; and of an entire didactic tradition (inherited equally
from rabbinical Judaism and Greco-Roman itinerant philosophy) that valued manual labor as
the particular context for teaching converts and disciples”.
29 Briggs 2000, 112, 117; Glancy 2000; Harrill 2003, 231, 248; Osiek 2003, 262. On violence
to slaves in general cf. Saller 1991.
30 Briggs 2000, 115-17; Glancy 1998; 2002, 21-24; Osiek 2003, 262-64, 269-70; Osiek and
Macdonald 2006.
31 The Lucan parallel (τοῦ διδόναι ἐν καιρῷ [τὸ] σιτμέτριον, Luke 12:42) is probably
“secondary” to Matthew (so Marshall 1978, 541). For other differences between Matt 24:45
and Luke 12:42 cf. Creed 1930, 177; Weiser 1971, 185; Stählin 1972, 263-64; Marshall 1978,
32 Stählin 1972, 263: “Striking and carousing are an enviable prerogative of masters according
to the opinion of slaves”. Stählin points to the following texts: Aristophanes Pax 743;
Eubulus frag. 60; Plautus Asin. 628; Poen. 384; Curc. 197; Merc. 396; Menander Dysk. 195-
96; Lucian Tim. 23.
96 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

the drunken, a traditional description (Weiser 1971, 194-5). In spite of these

unsavoury details, 33 however, the unfaithful slave must have been a person of
considerable ability and of a high caliber when measured against the other slaves; 34
otherwise, the master would not have entrusted the slave with tasks upon which the
entire household depended. Other competent slaves who figure prominently in
parables are the slave who ends up owing the king 10,000 talents (Matt 18:23-
35), 35 the doorkeeper (τῷ θυρωρῷ, Mark 13:34), 36 the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-
8), 37 and the more enterprising of those slaves to whom the talents/minas are
entrusted (Matt 25:14-30//Luke 19:12-27). 38 The phrase “to each according to his
ability” (ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δύναμιν, Matt 25:15 RSV) 39 would seem to have
had the widest application: “the slaves have their abilities, the master has his

33 They are part of the parable, but such passages as 1 Cor 11:21; 2 Pet 2:13; Jude 12 suggest
that violence and carousal were known in the Christian assemblies too.
34 Matt 24:45-47 features “the faithful and wise” slave (ὁ πιστὸς δοῦλος καὶ φρόνιμος) but he is
probably the same fellow described in Matt 24:48 as “that wicked servant” (ὁ κακὸς δοῦλος
ἐκεῖνος RSV). So assume Davies and Allison 1997, 386.
35 If one accepts the sum of 10,000 talents as an original part of the parable, δοῦλος in Matt
18:26, 28 may mean not “slave” but—in accordance with oriental usage—“minister” or
“official” (BAGD, 260 s.v. δοῦλος, on the basis of SIG 22,4; IMagMai 115,4; LXX 1 Sam
29:3; LXX 2 Kgs 5:6; Josephus Ant. 2.70): “The parable would then be about a king and one
of his governors or satraps” (Davies and Allison 1991, 797).
36 There is a tendency to relate this person to the emerging apostolate of the church (so Swete
1913, 317; Lane 1974, 483), but that Mark intends to depict a literal slave here seems likely
in light of other passages cited by LSJ [1940], 812 (s.v. θυρωρός) to illustrate the definition
“door-keeper, porter”—namely, Herodotus Hist. 1.120; Aeschylus Cho. 565; Plato Phileb.
62c; BGU 1061.10 (I CE); Lucian Vit. auct. 7.
37 Beavis 1992, 49: “The οἰκονόμος of the parable is probably a slave”. Contra Bailey 1976, 92.
38 Davies and Allison 1997, 405: “That a wealthy businessman, before leaving on a commercial
venture, entrusted slaves with so much money and responsibility may seem strange to us; but
‘slaves could fill an enormous range of functions, including positions involving onerous
duties, political influence, and relatively high social esteem’” (citing Beavis 1992, 40;
original emphasis).
39 The phrase occurs nowhere else. However, cf. the following expressions seem worthy of
note: “according to his own plan [κατὰ τὴν ἰδ[ί]αν βούλησιν]” (P.Oxy. LIV 3756.15; 26
January-24 February CE 325); “according to the validity of the sale you have had from me
[κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς γεγενη|μένης σοι παρ᾿ ἐμο(ῦ) πράσεως]” (BGU II 371.16-17; VII CE);
“according to the validity of the same sale [κατὰ τὴν δύναμ(ιν) | τῆς αὐτῆς πράσεως]” (BGU
II 371.27-28; VII CE); “according to the validity of my rent [κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν | τῆς ἐμ[ῆ]ς
μι[σθ]ώσεως]” (BGU XII 2189.4-5; VI CE); “according to the validity of the sale you have
from me [κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς γενομένης εἴς σε παρ᾿ ἐμοῦ πράσεως]” (CPR VI 6.8; 8 July
CE 439); “according to the power of the divine command that was enjoined upon you [κα[τ]ὰ
[τ]ὴν δύναμιν τῆς πορισθείση[ς ... ὑμῖν θείας κελεύ]σεως]” (P.Cair.Masp. I 67032.69; 11 July
CE 551), etc.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon 97

slaves” (Davies and Allison 1997, 406, on Matt 25:15). 40 What has received the
most attention of late is the physical abuse to which managerial slaves could be
subject (e.g., Bradley 1994, 152; Glancy 2002, 103, 111); however, even Glancy
admits that elite slaves could aspire to impressive “heights”, 41 and Jesus obviously
pitched his parables to persons cognizant of the abilities competent slaves needed
to get ahead (Nordling 2004, 54; cf. Landry and May 2000, 295). Slave managers
may have been of minor economic importance when compared to other slaves in
terms of production (Garnsey 1982, 105), but they are important to the social
historian because they were frequently manumitted and so upwardly mobile:
A slave manager or agent in a position of responsibility could enhance his own
social and financial position… By capitalizing on his master’s position and business
activities, Hesychus advanced his own position (Martin 1990, 19). 42
My suspicion, then, is that Onesimus was one of the managerial slaves in the
employ of Philemon, not a menial. Indeed, I think it likely that Onesimus had an
ability upon which Philemon relied—a considerable ability, one gathers, based on
Paul’s not-so-cryptic remark in v. 18a that Onesimus had “wronged” (ἠδίκησεν)
Philemon and “owe[d]” him something (ὀφείλει). I take the remark to mean that
Onesimus—like several of the managerial slaves featured in the preceding
paragraph—was the sort of person to whom Philemon had entrusted much.
Onesimus, however, had proven unfaithful to the master’s trust, or even—so I
speculate—had taken advantage of a privileged position in Philemon’s house to
harm his master in ways that Paul is careful not to reveal too precisely. That said,
there are some additional texts that cast a bright light on the picture of Onesimus
that seems to emerge.

40 Cf. the expressions, “he will repay every man for what he has done [κατὰ τὴν πρᾶξιν αὐτοῦ]”
(Matt 16:27 RSV); “gifts that differ according to the grace given to us [κατὰ τὴν χάριν τὴν
δοθεῖσαν ἡμῖν]” (Rom 12:6); “grace was given to each of us according to the measure of
Christ’s gift [κατὰ τὸ μέτρον τῆς δωρεᾶς τοῦ Χριστοῦ]” (Eph 4:7 RSV); “as each has
received a gift [ἕκαστος καθὼς ἔλαβεν χάρισμα], employ it for one another, as good stewards
of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet 4:10 RSV). Added emphases.
41 Glancy 2000, 72: “The parable of the unmerciful slave [Matt 18:23-35] gestures toward the
heights that elite slaves could reach: the unmerciful slave apparently has access to his royal
master’s resources, to the extent that he eventually accrues a vast debt to his owner totaling
ten thousand talents”.
42 On the basis of the experience of Hesychus, the industrious slave agent of the imperial
freedman Ti. Iulius Evenus Primianus. Cf. Casson 1984, 108-10; Martin 1990, 18-19, nn. 91-
98 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

III. Four Additional Texts

In 1991 I pointed to some extra-biblical texts that favour the idea that the pre-
conversion Onesimus conformed to a “uniform pattern of runaway slave
behaviour” (Nordling 1991, 99). 43 This evidence seemed suited to the runaway
slave “racket” Daube identified in 1952—namely, dissatisfied slaves sometimes
stole from their masters, ran away, then sent a slave-catcher (fugitivarius) back to
the original master in hopes of arranging a sale of the slave to a kindlier master, or
of arranging a manumission on terms not favourable to the original master. 44 In
intervening years I have run across four additional passages which—even if they
do not favour Daube’s “racket”—do lend credence to the idea that Onesimus was a
competent slave who, in certain critical respects, abused the trust which Philemon
reposed on him and ran away.
Let us begin with a text that could support the idea that such slaves as
Onesimus had access to wealth and property, rather than that they were menials
marking time in some dreary ergastulum. 45 Quite suggestive are the words
ἠδίκησεν (“he wronged”, Phlm 18a) and ὀφείλει (“he owes”, Phlm 18a) which, as
has already been observed (notes 14-15 above), occur frequently in petitionary
papyri aggrieved persons wrote to regional magistrates in hopes of recovering
damages from those who had “wronged” them financially and therefore “owed”
them something. How badly a complainant could be “wronged” is indicated in the
following papyrus that has been dated to the early second century BCE:
Ἀνταίωι ἐπιστάτῃ Φιλα-
δελφείας παρὰ Δημητρίου
τοῦ Κεφάλονος. ἀδικοῦμαι
ὑπὸ Πασινοσίριός \τινος/ καὶ
5 Θεοδότου \τοῦ Ἀπύτου/ καὶ Ὥρου \τ̣ο̣ῦ̣ Πεσάϊος/ ἐρη-
μοφύλακος. ὁ μὲν Πασινο-
σῖρις ὀφείλων μοι πρὸς τι-
μὴν ἐλαίας (δραχμὰς) Ατ 〚καὶ〛
ἀπὸ ε τοῦ Μεχεὶρ τοῦ ιβ (ἔτους) καὶ

43 Nordling 1991, 99-106 focuses upon the following extra-biblical documents: Pliny the
Younger Ep. 9.21; UPZ I 121 (12 August 156 BCE); P.Oxy. XIV 1643 (CE 298); P.Oxy. XII
1423 (IV CE); ILS 8727, 8730, 8731. Many more documents of this type appear in Llewelyn
44 For the practice cf. Crook 1967, 186-87; Bradley 1987, 32 n. 43; Watson 1987, 64-66;
Nordling 1991, 104-105.
45 The word, derived from ἐργάζομαι (“I work”), means “workhouse for debtors or slaves”
(Simpson 1959, 217); also, “a workhouse for offenders (slaves, debtors, etc.), a house of
correction, penitentiary” (Lewis and Short 1879, 655). Lexicographers use the following
passages to support these definitions: Columella Rust. 1.6.3; 1.8.16; Cicero Clu. 21; Rab.
Perd. 20; Livy ab Urbe Condita 2.23.7; 7.4.5; Suetonius Aug. 32; Tib. 8; Vulg. Exod 6:6.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon 99

10 δεδωκὼς πρὸς ταύτας

ὑπόθημα κρήφιον καὶ
ἄμην καὶ ὁρμίσκον
καὶ ἀργυρίου ἐπισή-
μου (δραχμὰς) δ οὐδ᾽ ἕως τοῦ
15 νῦν κομίζεται ταξά-
μενος εἰς τὴν ἐχομέ-
To Antaeus, manager of Philadelphia, from Demetrius, son of Kephalon. I am being
wronged [ἀδικοῦμαι] by [ὑπό] one Pasinosiris and Theodotos, son of Apytos, and
Horus, son of Pesaion, desert policeman. Although Pasinosiris was owing
[ὀφείλων] me as a price of [the] olive 1300 drachmas [ἐλαίας (δραχμὰς) Ατ] 46 from
[date] and had given for them as a surety a small hoe [κρήφιον] 47 and a scoop shovel
and a necklace and 4 drachmas of coined silver, not even now does he redeem
[them], though he promised [to do this] on the appointed [day] (P.Mich. III 173.1-
17; 170 BCE; my trans.; another Engl. trans. available at
Then follow Demetrius’s complaints against two other persons named in the
papyrus, namely, Theodotus, who “owed” Demetrius 475 drachmas for olives, 48
and Horus, who likewise “owed” Demetrius 340 bronze drachmas for wine. 49 The
suggestive words “wrong” (ἀδικέω) and “owe” (ὀφείλω) occur in brief compass
also in Philemon 18a: “if he has wronged [ἠδίκησεν] you at all, or owes [ὀφείλει]
you anything ...” (RSV). The subject is of course Onesimus. The proximity of
such language—ἀδικέω and ὀφείλω in one breath, similar to the papyrus—could
cause one to suspect that Onesimus likewise “owed” a lot of money too, although
just how much is not mentioned by Paul. Still, one may perhaps be forgiven for
suspecting that possibly Onesimus “owed” Philemon quite a lot, both because the
pertinent papyrus features debtors who “owed” Demetrius hundreds or even
thousands of drachmas, and because the verb ὀφείλω appears also in parables

46 The papyrus uses the “alphabetic system” of numerical notation, the signs for which are
provided in Smyth 1920, 103-4.
47 Schuman 1936, 172: “I find the word nowhere else. Cf. Hesychius [Lexicon Κ 4032], κράφα:
ᾧ οἱ κηπουροὶ τοὺς βώλους ἀπάγουσιν [‘hoe: with which the gardeners clear away the roots,’
my trans.], cited in the new Liddell and Scott [LSJ 1940, 992 s.v. κράφα]. Could κρήφιον be
considered a diminutive form of κράφα, meaning ‘small hoe’?”
48 “And this other fellow Theodotos, although he has given as a surety a tunic and a goblet for
the 475 drachmas which he likewise owed [προσωφείλησεν] as a price for olives, neither is
he redeeming it, even though he promised [to do this] on the appointed day” (P.Mich. III
173.17-27; my trans.).
49 “And Horus here, although owing [ὀφείλων] from the same month as a price for wine 340
drachmas of bronze, and having given as a surety a tunic, neither is he redeeming it” (P.Mich.
III 173.27-33; my trans.).
100 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

wherein the fictionalized characters “owe” masters and each other exorbitant sums
(e.g., Matt 18:28, 30, 34; Luke 7:41; 16:7). At any rate, one gets the impression—
both by reading the parabolic material (citations in previous sentence) and
suggestive formulae in pertinent papyri elsewhere 50 —that causing financial
“harm” and “owing” creditors exorbitant sums were ordinary enough occurrences
in ancient times. Interpreters used to assume such dynamics lay at the heart of
Paul’s letter to Philemon too, even if other details remain unclear: “the case is
stated hypothetically but the words doubtless describe the actual offense of
Onesimus. He had done his master some injury, probably had robbed him; and he
fled to escape punishment” (Lightfoot 1886, 341; cf. Goodenough 1929, 182; Dunn
1996, 303 n. 8). 51
In another text we learn of one Sarapion, a δοῦλος (“slave”) who had become
attached to his mistress, Aurelia Sarapias, as part of the estate of her father:
Αὐρηλίῳ Π̣[ρω]τ̣άρχ[ῳ] τῷ καὶ Ἥρωνι στρα(τηγῷ) Ὀξυ(ρυγχίτου)
παρὰ Αὐ[ρ]ηλ[ίας] Σ̣α̣ρ̣α̣π̣ιάδος τῆς καὶ Διονυ-
σαρίου θυ[γα]τρὸς Ἀπολλοφάνους τοῦ καὶ Σαρα-
πάμμων̣ο̣ς̣ ἐξηγητεύσαντος τῆς Ἀντινο̣έω̣(ν)
5 πόλεως [χω]ρὶς κυρίου χρηματιζούσης
δικαίῳ τέ̣κ̣νων. ἔχουσα πρότερον
τοῦ πατρός μου δοῦλον ὀνόματι Σαραπίωνα
καὶ τοῦτον νομίσασα μηδὲν φαῦλόν τι δια-
πρά[ξ]ασθαι τῷ εἶναί μου πατρικὸν καὶ πε-
10 πιστεῦσθαι ὑπ᾽ ἐμοῦ τὰ ἡμέτερα, οὗτος
οὐκ οἶθ’ ὅπως ἐξ ἐπιτριβῆς τινων ἀλλό-

50 Quite a number of papyri reflect situations similar to the one Demetrius presumes in P.Mich.
III 173. A recent search in online DDBDP (,
accessed 27 December 2009) for the phrase, “I am being wronged by so-and-so [ἀδικοῦμαι
ὑπό]”, revealed 135 hits (most quite fragmentary), and the same sentence in the first person
plural (“we are being wronged by so-and-so [ἀδικούμεθα ὑπό]”) uncovered seventeen
additional examples. Consider the following representative examples (with the approximate
number of letters missing indicated in brackets []): [ca. ? ἀδικ]ούμεθα ὑπὸ Διονυσίου
(P.Cair.Zen. V 59826.1; 254-251 BCE); ἀδικούμεθα ὑπὸ Τεμσώιος καὶ Σενεμενώπιος | καὶ
Τετειμ[ca. ? κ]αῖ Ἑριέως καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν [σ]υνθιασιτίδων τῶν ἐκ Κερκεθοήρεως, τῆς
Πολέμωνος μερίδος (P.Enteux 21.1-2; 13 January 218 BCE); ἀδικο[ῦμαι ὑπὸ] |Ἀνδραγάθου
τοῦ Σωπάτρου α[ca. 10] | [ ] ἐν τῆι ἀγορᾶι ἐν τοῖς τεμε[ca. 10] | μάρτυροι (BGU VI 1470.3-6;
before 190 BCE); ἀδικοῦμαι ὑπὸ Πτολε[μαίου τοῦ] | [ca. 4]του τοῦ Σίμωνος[ca. ?] | καὶ
Πτολεμαίου καὶ Ἀ[ca. ?] | τοῦ καὶ Ψαῦος καλουμ[ένου] ... (BGU X 1907.3-6; 4 May-2 June
177 BCE); ἀδικοῦμαι ὑ|πὸ Ἁρχήβιος (P.Köln III 140.5-6; 244-242? BCE); ἀδικοῦμ[αι ὑπὸ ca.
?] | ὀφείλων γάρ μοι (P.Coll.Youtie I 10.1-2; second half of III BCE), etc.
51 Lightfoot 1886, 310: “He [Onesimus] seems to have done just what the representative slave
in the Roman comedy threatens to do, when he gets into trouble. He had ‘packed up some
goods and taken to his heels [aliquid convassasem, atque hinc me protinam conjicerem in
pedes, Terence Phorm. 1.4.13; trans. Lightfoot 1886, 310 n. 3]”.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon101

τρια φρονήσας τῆς παρεχομένης αὐτῷ

ὑπ᾽ ἐμοῦ τιμῆς καὶ χορηγίας τῶν ἀναγ-
καίων πρὸς δίαιταν ὑφελόμενός τινα
15 ἀπὸ τῶν ἡμετέρων μεθ᾽ ὧν αὐτῷ
κατεσκεύασα ἱματίων καὶ ἄλλων καὶ ὧν
καὶ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ περιεποιήσατο ἐκ τῶν
ἡμετέρων λάθρᾳ ἀπέδρα. περιηχηθεῖ-
σα δὲ εἶναι τοῦτον ἐν τῷ Νόμου ἐποικ̣[ίῳ]
20 [π]αρὰ Χαιρήμονι ἠξίωσα παρὰ τῷ δια̣κ̣[ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣]
[ ̣ ̣ ̣( ) τ]οῦ νομοῦ εἰρην[αρ]χ( ) Αὐρηλι[ - ca. ? - ]
[ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣] ̣γι ̣[ - ca. ? - ] ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣[ ̣] ̣[ - ca. ? - ]
[ - ca. ? - ] ̣υδρ ̣[ - ca. ? - ]
[ - ca. ? - ] ̣ ̣[ - ca. ? - ]
Text breaks
To Aurelius Protarchus, also known as Hero, governor [στρα(τηγῷ)] 52 of
Oxyrhynchites, from Aurelia Sarapias, also the daughter of Dionysius Apollophanes,
also known as Sarapammon, former adviser [ἐξηγητεύσαντος] 53 of the city of
Antinoos, as I—without a guardian—conduct business according to the right of
children. 54 Although I kept formerly a slave of my father, named Sarapion, and I
had supposed that he had managed nothing negligently, since he was my inheritance
and had been entrusted by me with our affairs, this fellow—I know not how—by the
instigation of certain folk and out of sheer spite [ἀλλό|τρια φρονήσας], 55 even
though a place of honour and life’s provision were provided to him by me—stole

52 In Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt the noun στρατηγός could have the specialized meaning,
“military and civil governor of a nome” (LSJ 1940, 1652 s.v. στρατηγός). Lexicographers
use the following passages to support this definition: P.Enteux. I 79.12 (III BCE); P.Cair.Zen.
III 59351.4 (ca. 243 BCE); BGU VIII 1730.11 (50/49 BCE), etc.
53 The definition of the verb ἐξηγητεύω is “hold the office of ἐξηγητής” (LSJ 1940, 593 s.v.
ἐξηγητεύω). The cognate noun ἐξηγητής means: “one who leads on, adviser” (LSJ 1940, 593
s.v. ἐξηγητής, -ου, ὁ). Lexicographers use the following passages to support these
definitions: P.Lond. II 343.2 (Boubastos?; CE 188); III 1226.2 (Thead; CE 254?); III 1157.2
(Hermnome; CE 246); SB I 1492.2 (Arsnome; ca. CE 250); P.Fay. I 85.1 (Thead; CE 247);
Herodotus Hist. 5.31; Demosthenes 35.17.
54 The phrase δικαίῳ τέκνων seems to be the Greek equivalent of ius liberorum (cf. Hagedorn
1981, 172: “Drei-Kinder-Recht”). For the so-called “right of children” cf. Berger 1953, 530:
“The most important application of ius liberorum concerned women. A freeborn woman with
three children and a freed-woman with four children (ius trium vel quattuor liberorum) were
freed from guardianship to which women were subject (tutela mulierum) and had a right of
succession to the inheritance of their children”.
55 Cf. Hagedorn 1981, 171: “Die Wendung ἀλλότρια φρονήσας in Z. 11/12 signalisiert in
besonderem Maße die Betroffenheit und Enttäuschung über den Vertrauensbruch (vgl. auch
πεπιστεῦσθαι Z. 9/10)”. For the phrase ἀλλότρια φρονήσας cf. P.Bon. 21.8; P.Heid. III 237.5
(Thead; II CE); P.Oxy. II 282.10 (CE 29-37); P.Ryl. II 128.128 (CE 30).
102 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

some things from those items with which I had provisioned him (clothes and other
items he had saved up for himself) and ran away secretly [λάθρα ἀπέδρα]. And
having got wind of the fact [περιηχηθεῖ|σα] 56 that this fellow is in the hamlet of
Nomos at the house of Chairemon, I have resolved to ... from Aurelius, commander
of the nome ... (P.Turner 41.1-24; ca. 249-250 CE; my trans; other translations
appear in Hagedorn 1981, 172 [German]; and Llewelyn 1992, 55-56).
The papyrus breaks off tantalizingly in lines 20-21, before Aurelia Sarapias
states just why she has petitioned Aurelius Protarchus in the first place. I disagree
with Llewelyn who argues that that ἠξίωσα in line 20 indicates that Aurelia
Sarapias had petitioned the magistrate before, and that her petition had been
unsuccessful. 57 The text is too fragmentary to support such an assertion, nor does
Llewelyn deal with the fact that finite forms of ἀξιόω pattern frequently with
infinitives—such as one finds, e.g., in Liddell, Scott and Jones (1940, 172 s.v.
ἀξιόω) 58 and in the documentary papyri. 59 So it seems quite certain to me that the
prolate infinitive upon which Aurelia Sarapias’ ἠξίωσα depends in line 20 has been
irretrievably lost. Nevertheless, as several documents provided in Nordling 1991,
101-105 demonstrate, 60 it seems obvious that Aurelia Sarapias meant for Aurelius
Protarchus to launch an all-out expedition to retrieve Sarapion and take legal action
against those persons responsible for her slave’s theft and flight. The responsible
persons are designated by the phrase “by the instigation of certain folk” (ἐξ
ἐπιτριβῆς τινων, 11) 61 —an expression which, under the circumstances, must

56 This is the aor. pass. ptc. of the vb. περιηχέω which, in the pass. voice, may mean “get wind
of a fact” (LSJ 1940, 1374 s.v. περιηχέω). Lexicographers use the following passages to
support this definition: P.Oxy. VIII 1119. 7 (CE 253); XLVII 3350. 9 (CE 330).
57 Llewelyn 1992, 57: “[S]ince the document does not appear to be the first petition (see ll. 19-
20 especially the aorist ἠξίωσα), it could be concluded that the former petition had been
unsuccessful, with the slave surprisingly still residing in the Oxyrhynchite nome”.
58 “III. c[um] inf[initivo], ἀ[ξιόω] κομίζεσθαι, τυγχάνειν think one has a right to receive, expect
to receive, Th[uc]1.43; 7.15; προῖκα θεωρεῖν ἀ[ξιόω] Th[eo]phr[astus] Char. 6.4; ἄλλο τι
ἀξιοῖς ἢ ἀποθανεῖν; Lys. 22.5: with a neg[ative], οὐκ ἀξιῶ ὑποπτεύεσθαι I think I do not
deserve to be suspected, have a right not to be…, Th[uc] 4.86”, etc.
59 E.g., “inasmuch as they have planted the vineyards in part up to the 25th year, I have resolved
to make the rounds [ἠξίωσα ... ἐφοδεῦσαι], having taken an attendant from Heracleides, in
order to enroll those who have planted cucumber or round gourd or any other [such] thing…”
(P.Cair.Zen. III 59300.1-3; 23 June 250 BCE; my trans.). Cf. also ἠξίω(σ)α ... ἀγοράσαι
(P.Cair.Zen. III 59311.2; 250 BCE); ἠξίωσα ... ἀποδημῆσαι (P.Cair.Zen. III 59496.8; 248-
241 BCE); ἠξίωσα ... γράψαι (P.Coll.Youtie I 17.4, 7-8; 37 BCE); ἠξίωσα ... προσφωνῆσαι
(P.Flor. I 43.7; CE 370); ἠξίωσα ... εἰσαχθῆναι (P.Lips. 40.20; Hermopolis, IV-V CE); σε
ἠξίωσα τὸν μύ|λον ἀποστεῖλαί μοι (P.Lond. VII 2059.3-4; III CE), etc.
60 Namely, UPZ I 121.15-16, 25-26 (12 August 156 BCE); P.Oxy. XIV 1643.12-13 (CE 298);
P.Oxy. XII 1423.9-10 (IV CE).
61 Hagedorn 1981, 171: “Die Wendung ἐξ ἐπιτριβῆς τινων soll möglicherweise den
Strafanspruch der Besitzerin gegenüber den τινές sichern. Im römischen Rect, welches
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon103

indicate that mistress Aurelia Sarapias’ acute distress was “not unexpected”
(Llewelyn 1992, 57 n. 66). The papyrus’s legalese cannot quite mask Aurelia
Sarapias’s extreme outrage: not only does the οὗτος in line 10 suggest utter
contempt for Sarapion (cf. τοῦτον, 19), 62 but the words οὐκ οἶθ᾿ ὅπως (“I know not
how”, 11) 63 might well constitute an instance of aposiopesis (ἀποσιώπησις), a form
of ellipse by which, under the influence of passionate feeling or modesty, a speaker
comes to an abrupt halt (Smyth 1920, 674 §3015). 64 The tangle of depending
clauses culminates finally in the damning words λάθρᾳ ἀπέδρα (“he ran secretly
away”, 18). “He was nothing but a lousy runaway”, Aurelia Sarapias seems to
complain, and statements that she had inherited the slave from her father, entrusted
him with her affairs, provided living necessities, and a position of pre-eminence in
her household demonstrate that “there were no grounds for [the] flight” (Llewelyn
1992, 57). 65 Yet what had Sarapion done? Aurelia Sarapias claims he had
“stolen” (ὑφελόμενος, 14). 66 But just what he had “stolen” is jumbled in the
papyrus: certain clothing items, clearly, and other things she had “made available”
to him (αὐτῷ | κατεσκεύασα ἱματίων, 15-16); 67 then too there were “other” things
he had “saved for himself” from out of those items that were Aurelia Sarapias’ to
give (καὶ ἄλλων καὶ ὧν | καὶ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ περιεποιήσατο ἐκ τῶν | ἡμετέρων, 16-
18). 68 The papyrus indicates that there was no clear distinction in Aurelia

soweit auch für die Provinzen galt, wird an zwei Stellen die Anstiftung eines Sklaven zur
Flucht mit Strafe bedroht: Dig. 48, 15, 6, 2: qui servo alieno ... persuaserit, ut a domino
dominave fugiat ... (lex Fabia) und Dig. 11, 3, 1, 5 qui servo persuadet, ut ... fugiat ... (actio
de servo corrupto) ...”
62 LSJ 1940, 1276 s.v. οὗτος: “οὗτος is used emphat[ically], generally in contempt, while
ἐκεῖνος denotes praise”.
63 Obviously an orthographic variant for οὐκ οἶδ᾿ ὅπως, just as κυρρίου (5) represents κυρίου
and τειμῆς (13) represents τιμῆς.
64 Smyth (1920, 674 §3015) provides the following example by way of illustration:
“Massachusetts and her people ... hold him, and his love ... and his principles, and his
standard of truth in utter—what shall I say?—anything but respect”.
65 Hagedorn 1981, 171: “Sie [Aurelia Sarapias] hat ihm nicht nur die notwendige χορηγία,
sondern darüber hinaus τιμή, eine geachtete Stellung innerhalb des Haushaltes, zukommen
66 Nom. sing. masc. aor. mid. ptc. of ὑφαιρέω which, in the middle voice, means, “filch,
purloin” (LSJ 1940, 1907 s.v. ὑφαιρέω). Lexicographers use the following passages to
support this definition: Aristophanes Eq. 745; Nub. 179; Plut. 1140; Demosthenes 45.58;
P.Cair.Zen. XIII 59350.4 (BCE 244).
67 For the declaration of items runaway slaves stole together with themselves, cf. UPZ I 121.9-
11 (12 August 156 BCE) and P.Oxy. XII 1423.8 (IV CE), in Nordling 1991, 102 and 103-4,
68 The verb περιεποιήσατο (3 sing. aor. Indic. mid. < περιποιέω) must mean something akin to
“save for oneself”, although this meaning cannot be substantiated lexicographically (cf. LSJ
1940, 1384 s.v. περιποιέω). Nevertheless, Hagedorn supposes (1981, 171) that Sarapion had
104 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Sarapias’ mind between her own possessions, what Sarapion managed for her and
the greater estate, and what moderns might be tempted to suppose was Sarapion’s
own (peculium, etc.). 69 Yet neither Sarapion himself, nor those “things” to which
he had access, enjoyed, and used for his own purposes, belonged to the slave as an
autonomous self: everything belonged to Aurelia Sarapias, and the overall tone of
the papyrus indicates that she was quite put out by her slave’s brazen—and
completely unexpected—flight. So the papyrus proves that highly trusted, well-
provisioned, and apparently unassailable slaves could, on occasion, betray trusting
masters by running away.
This papyrus’s pertinence for a traditional interpretation of Philemon should be
obvious. If, as I have been suggesting, Onesimus was an important slave in
Philemon’s employ—such as Sarapion was to whom Aurelia Sarapias had
“entrusted” her household effects (πε-|πιστεῦσθαι ὑπ᾿ ἐμοῦ τὰ ἡμέτερα, P.Turner
41.9-10)—and Onesimus had done something to Philemon even remotely akin to
Sarapion’s crime against Aurelia Sarapias, then we might reasonably expect that
Philemon likewise was quite put out. Not many have suggested that Paul wrote the
letter to assuage Philemon’s inner man, though Paul’s desire to effect a
reconciliation between Philemon and Onesimus seems, in my mind, to be a much
more plausible explanation for Paul’s interest than any of the other ingenious
possibilities that have been offered. 70 Then, too, there is the role that Philemon’s
house congregation apparently played as a linchpin between Ephesus (where Paul
ministered for more than two years, Acts 19:8-10) and congregations founded still
further east during the first journey (Acts 14:21; 16:1, 6; 18:23; Nordling 2004, 36-
38; 2010). Such reconstructions grant scope not only to the importance of
Philemon’s house church in the Pauline travelogue, but to the probably
indispensible role Onesimus played in Philemon’s household as a highly
responsible slave before something approximating greed, financial
mismanagement, a falling out with short-tempered Philemon 71 —or a combination
of the preceding—caused Onesimus to do the unthinkable. Nor should Paul’s
failure to mention such possibilities be permitted to scupper the runaway slave

“exhausted” (“mitgenommen hatte”) those funds that had accrued to him from gifts, rewards,
and outright cash resources that slaves had access to as agents of their masters.
69 Berger 1953, 624: “Peculium. A sum of money, a commercial or industrial business, or a
small separate property granted by a father to his son or by a master to his slave, for the son’s
(or slave’s) use, free disposal, and fructification through commercial or other transactions”.
Peculia could grant relatively high levels of independence to slaves and freedmen (Garnsey
1982, 106). Lyall (1984, 38, 125) connects the peculium to Matt 25:14-30 and Phil 2:12-13.
70 Cf. Nordling 2004, 9-19 vis-à-vis Knox 1959; Winter 1984; 1987; Callahan 1993a; 1993b;
71 For the possibility that Philemon was a quite formidable character—money, status, and
irascibility all rolled into one—cf. Nordling 2004, 160-67. Lampe mentions (1985, 136)
“Zornesausbrüchen des Herrn”.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon105

hypothesis (contra Dunn 1996, 303 n. 11; Arzt-Grabner 2001a). As has been
argued all along, there should be ample room in the interpretation of Philemon for
tact and pastoral sensitivity on the part of Paul. The point is that shocked
disappointment at someone who has done one wrong—especially at someone
whom one thought one could trust—constitutes the sort of very human response
one plainly sees in P.Turner 41 (above) and also in Paul’s delicate words to
Philemon, without reading too much between the lines. 72 Of course, we shall have
to accept Paul’s reticence toward the unseemly matters that apparently caused the
apostle to write the letter in the first place. Still, the overall tone of Paul’s letter
seems clear enough:
[Paul] ... used wit, a personal relationship with Philemon (cf. v 19b), and perhaps
even an intentional ambiguity 73 to remain discreet and not cause Philemon undue
grief. It would have violated the highly charming tone of the letter—to say nothing
of the Gospel—had Paul written, more forthrightly: “Forgive Onesimus for having
stolen so much property from you, and send him back to me immediately, or else
...!” (Nordling 2004, 13-14; original emphases). 74
Paul desired, therefore, that relational dynamics between Philemon and
Onesimus be considerably improved, even if the two were to continue on as master
and slave. 75 Paul expected Philemon publicly to treat Onesimus with respect,
“even if they [were] not necessarily equals” (de Vos 2001, 103).
A third text suggests the type of diversions that could cause competent slaves to
fall afoul of masters: gambling, maintaining love affairs, spending too much time
at public entertainments, becoming seditious, squandering one’s peculium, or the
outright falsification of a master’s accounts:
Is quoque deteriorem facit, qui servo persuadet, ut iniuriam faceret vel furtum vel
fugeret vel alienum servum ut sollicitaret vel ut peculium intricaret, aut amator
existeret vel erro vel malis artibus esset deditus vel in spectaculis nimius vel

72 Nordling 2004, 254: “Like everything else about this letter, Paul chose the perfect words to
soothe and appease Philemon’s inner man. Paul’s design throughout the letter is to lead
Philemon gently, by a series of nearly imperceptible steps, to forgive Onesimus and receive
the slave back into his good graces and complete confidence. Paul’s goal is that in Christ
Philemon might have Onesimus back ‘forever’ (αἰώνιον, v 15)”.
73 Nordling 2004, 13 n. 71: “Paul knew that Philemon knew what Paul was writing about”.
Original emphasis.
74 For others who have seen intentional ambiguities in Phlm cf Barclay 1991, 175; Wilson 1992,
116; de Vos 2001, 90, 91 n. 10.
75 de Vos 2001, 101: “The legal act of manumission, in and of itself, would not have
fundamentally altered the actual relationship between the freed slave and his/her former
master. It is unlikely, therefore, that Paul’s specific aim in the letter is the manumission of
106 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

seditiosus: vel si actori suasit verbis sive pretio, ut rationes dominicas intercideret
adulteraret 76 vel etiam ut rationem sibi commissam turbaret.
One also makes a slave worse if one persuades him to commit an injury or theft, to
run away [fugeret], to incite another man’s slave, to mismanage his peculium, to
become a lover, to play truant [erro], to practice evil arts, to spend too much time at
public entertainments, or to become seditious; or if, by argument or bribe, one
persuades a slave-agent to tamper with or falsify his master’s accounts [ut rationes
dominicas intercideret adulteraretve], or to confuse accounts entrusted to him [ut
rationem sibi commissam turbaret] (Dig., citing Ulpian [CE 211-222];
trans. Watson 1985, 1.341). 77
This rescript represents legislation directed against persons who “make a slave
worse” (deteriorem facit, Dig 78 Making slaves “worse” was the
province of certain “outside agents” described in Nordling 1991, 104-105, and
another evidence of such activity is likely provided in the phrase “by the
instigation of certain folk” (ἐξ ἐπιτριβῆς τινων, P.Turner 41.11, above). Heeding
Harrill’s advice (1999, 138) that we not use the Roman jurists to interpret
Philemon too woodenly, I believe, nevertheless, that the rescript presents a picture
of the kind of distractions to which Onesimus could well have been susceptible,
even though Paul breathes not a word of this in his letter. At any rate, we should
not think of the rescript as providing merely factual information about potential
distractions for slaves; instead, here we have an instance of that “stereotypical
thinking” whereby some ancients came to form (mostly negative) opinions about
others. 79 This mode of thinking could well explain why Paul was not more

76 In place of this word the critical apparatus suggests (Watson 1985, 1.341) adulteraretve.
77 Bradley uses the same translation (1994, 21); Udoh paraphrases it (2009, 331 n. 116). I have
used the dates for Ulpian provided in Clark 1906, 162-63.
78 The title of the rescript from which this legislation is taken is De Servo Corrupto (“The
Action for Making a Slave Worse”, trans. Watson 1985, 1.340).
79 Malina 2008, 4-5: “Cicero observes how the Carthaginians (from Carthage) are fraudulent
and liars because their ports are visited by too many merchants. Then there are the
Campanians (the region around Naples), who are so arrogant because of the fertility and
beauty of their land. And the Ligurians (from the region around Genoa) are hard and wild
because they are just like all other people who struggle to make mountain soil productive
([Cicero Agr.] 2.95). Josephus, an Israelite writer, notes how the Tiberians (from Tiberias in
Galilee) have ‘a passion for war’ (Josephus [Vita] §352); Scythians (from north of Iran)
‘delight in murdering people and are little better than wild beasts’ (Josephus [C. Ap.] §269).
In ‘the seamanship of its people . . . the Phoenicians in general have been superior to all
peoples of all times’ (Strabo [Geogr.] 16.2.23); ‘this is a trait common to all the Arabian
kings,’ that they do ‘not care much about public affairs and particularly military affairs’
(Strabo [Geogr.] 16.4.24). ‘These are the marks of the little-minded man. He is small
limbed, small and round, dry, with small eyes and a small face, like a Corinthian or
Leucadian’ (Ps. Aristotle [Physiogn.] 808a, 30-33). And in the New Testament we find
judgments such as: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’ (Titus 1:12) and ‘Can
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon107

forthcoming in the letter about Onesimus’ behavior: not only would Paul not have
badgered Philemon with “painful reminders of details already known too well”
(Nordling 1991, 107; cf. Byron 2004, 129), but the crimes in which Onesimus
engaged would have been so notorious that Paul need not have elaborated. Yet
more than a hint of such notorious activity may be perceptible in Luke 16:6 and 7
where a shrewd steward (οἰκονόμος)—doubtless a slave (Marshall 1978, 618-19;
cf. Beavis 1992)—rewrites the master’s accounts as follows: “‘take your bill, and
sit down quickly and write fifty [δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ καθίσας ταχέως
γράψον πεντήκοντα]’” (Luke 16:6 RSV); and “‘take your bill, and write eighty
[δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ γράψον ὀγδοήκοντα]’” (Luke 16:7 RSV). 80 It is the
opinion of several parable scholars that the steward of Luke 16:7 was engaged in a
crime which might best be described as “a misappropriation of funds” (Landry and
May 2000, 298 n. 46; cf. Scott 1983, 187; Kloppenborg 1989, 491 n. 58). Such
suspect practices in the parable provide a context for understanding better the
rescript’s phrases “tampering with or falsifying the master’s accounts” and
“confusing accounts entrusted to him” (above). While it is impossible to
demonstrate in which illegal activities Onesimus engaged precisely, it is at least
instructive to see that Ulpian regarded negligent managerial slaves as completely
irresponsible persons and thus capable of all the notorious crimes listed. From the
perspective of those who framed the law, to err in one respect (financial
mismanagement, let us say) meant that a compromised slave was capable of
anything else: running away, playing the truant, becoming involved in failed love
affairs, engaging in the dark arts, spending time at the public entertainments, etc.
Thus, the rescript aims not at legal exactitude, but rather tars with the same brush
any and all engaged in such activities: “Fugitive servile persons were typically
accused of theft” (Udoh 2009, 334).
A final text supports the idea that Paul’s ἐχωρίσθη (“he was parted from you”,
Phlm 15a RSV) may drop a quite precise hint of what Onesimus’ crime had been:
Ἀρτεμίδωρος Ζήνω[ν]ι χαίρειν. εἰ ἔρ[ρω]σαι, εὖ ἂ[ν] ἔχο̣ι̣ ἔρρωμαι δὲ κα[ὶ ἐγ]ώ.
Κλειτόριος ὅτι Πετῶς \ὁ/ ὑοφορβὸς ἀνακεχ[ώρ]ηκεν κ[α]ταλ̣[ι]πὼν ἱερεῖα ζ κ̣α̣ὶ̣
δελφάκ[ια ̣]
ε̣ἶ̣χ̣[ε]ν̣ δ̣᾽ ἡμ̣ῖ̣ν υ̣ ἱερεῖα ἔμ̣φ̣[ο]ρ̣α̣ [τέλεια, καὶ δελ]φά̣κια [π]ρ̣[οσ]ώ̣φειλε[ν] εἰς τὸν
καλῶς ἂ̣ν̣ ο̣ὖν ποιήσαις σπουδάσας ἵνα ἀναζητ<ηθ>ῆι ὁ ἄνθρωπος ποῦ

anything good come out of Nazareth?’ (John 1:46)”. For more on “stereotypical thinking” in
antiquity cf. de Vos 2001, 93-96.
80 Marshall 1978, 619: “The debtor is asked to take his bill (τὰ γράμματα, plural used for one
document: here, a promissory note ...) and either alter it in his own handwriting or more
probably write out a new one to half the amount”.
108 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

5 ἵνα μὴ διαπέσηι ἡμῖν τ[ο]σ̣α̣ῦτα ἱερεῖα, καὶ τοὺς ἐγγ̣ύους δὲ οἵτινες ἠγγύηνται
ἵνα ἢ συλληφθέντες ἀπαχθ̣ῶσι̣ν ἢ διεγγυηθῶ̣σιν ἕως ἂν
γένηται ἡμῖν τὰ δίκαια.
κεκ̣ο̣[μί]σ̣μεθα δὲ κα[ὶ] τὸ ὑ[ι]κ̣ὸ̣ν ἱερε[ῖο]ν ὃ ἀπέ̣[στ]ειλα̣ς̣ ἡ̣μ̣[ῖ]ν.
ἔρρωσο. (ἔτους) λϛ, Λωίου [ ̣]ε.
[(ἔτους)] λϛ̣, Θῶυθ ιε.
10 Ἀρτεμίδωρος.
Artemidorus greets Zenon. If you are well, it would be well; For I also am well.
Kleitorios wrote that Petos the swineherd has withdrawn [ἀνακεχ[ώρ]ηκεν] having
left behind 7 [ζ] 81 sacrificial animals [ἱερεῖα] 82 and ? 83 sucking pigs [δελφάκ[ια
]]. 84 He used to hold for us 400 [υ] 85 productive and mature sacrificial animals, and
he owes in addition 211 sucking pigs to the tribute. Thus you would do well, having
made haste, to search out where the fellow has retired to [ἀνα|κεχώρηκεν] in order
that we might not lose so many sacrificial victims. And [detain] the guarantors who
have given securities for him, in order that either, arrested, they may be led away (to
the magistrate) [ἀπαχθῶσιν] 86 or that they give security [διεγγυηθῶσιν] 87 until we

81 For the numerical system which uses alphabet letters for numbers cf. Smyth 1920, 103-4.
82 Accus. plur. neut. of ἱερεῖον –ου, n.: “victim, animal for sacrifice” (LSJ 1940, 821 s.v.
ἱερεῖον). Used both of sheep (OGI 214.62 [Didyma; III BCE]; IPE I2.76 [Olbia; perhaps IV
BCE]) and pigs (P.Cair.Zen. II 59161.2, 5, 6 [255 BCE]). Such animals were used for
sacrifices (ἱερεῖα) at the great feasts of the Greco-Egyptian religious calendar of the
Ptolemies. So Rostovzeff 1922, 108-09.
83 The numerical sign is missing on the papyrus.
84 Accus. plur. neut. of δελφάκιον –ίου, n.: “dim[inutive] of δέλφαξ, sucking pig” (LSJ 1940,
377 s.v. δελφάκιον). Lexicographers use the following passages to support this definition:
Aristophanes Thesm. 237; Lys. 1061; Aeschines Socraticus 4; BGU III 949.8 (Hera; ca. CE
3000), etc. By contrast, δέλφαξ –ακος, f. is a pig that is “full grown” (Liddell, Scott and
Jones 1940, 377 s.v. δέλφαξ), and so is “opp[osed to] χοῖρος” (LSJ 1940, 377 s.v. δέλφαξ).
Χοῖρος –ου, m. means, “young pig, porker (younger than δέλφαξ)” (LSJ 1940, 1996 s.v.
85 Although the figure υ (400) in line 3 “is doubtful” (Edgar 1928, 14), Rostovtzeff accepts it
(1922, 179) and it seems likely that the numerical symbol—whatever it was—represented a
large number of swine: first, the figure σια at the end of line 3—which Edgar believes is
“nearly certain” (1928, 14; cf. Rostovtzeff 1922, 179)—represents 211 animals and, second,
the papyrus mentions the potential loss of “so many [τ[ο]σαῦτα]” animals in line 5, also
indicative of a large number.
86 Third pers. aor. subj. pass. of ἀπάγω: “bring before a magistrate and accuse” (LSJ 1940, 174
s.v. ἀπάγω). The noun ἀπαγωγή, a cognate of ἀπάγω, meant, “a summary process by which a
person caught in the act (ἐπ᾿ αὐτοφώρῳ) might be arrested by any citizen and brought before
the magistrate” (LSJ 1940, 174 s.v. ἀπαγωγή). Lexicographers use the following passages to
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon109

get our lawful claims. Indeed, we have received the sacrificial pig which you sent
us. Farewell. The 36th (year), Loios [1]5.
The 36th (year), Thoth 15. 88 To Zenon.
Artimodorus’s (letter) (P.Cair.Zen. III 59310; 25 October 250 BCE; my trans.; a
French trans. appears in Orrieux 1983, 121).

The letter, “badly preserved” though it is (Edgar 1928, 14), nevertheless

presents a clear picture of a situation that should appear increasingly familiar to
us—namely, a once competent person proves untrustworthy, bringing about
financial hardship for a complainant. I suspect that Petos was not a slave, 89 though
that detail should by no means invalidate the pattern of illicit behavior exemplified
here: the document twice states that Petos has “withdrawn” (ἀνακεχώρηκεν,
P.Cair.Zen. III 59310.2, 4). 90 It was sometimes said of defaulters that that they had
“no property”, 91 and during financially difficult times defaulters became virtual
desperadoes in areas of Egypt that once supported abundant populations (Parsons,

support this definition: Antiphon 5.9; Andocides 1.88; Lysias 13.85f; Demosthenes Timocr.
87 Third pers. plur. aor. subj. pass. of διεγγυάω. In the pass. voice this verb may mean either
“be bailed out by anyone” (LSJ 1940, 423 s.v. διεγγυάω, cf. ὀκτακοσίων ταλαντων τοῖς
προξένοις διηγγυημένοι = “bailed by their Proxeni for eight hundred talents, Th[ucydides]
3.70) or “give security” (LSJ 1940, 423 s.v. διεγγυάω, on the basis of SIG 976.49 [Samos; II
88 Edgar supposed (1928, 15) that Thoth 15—a month and day in an ancient calendar—
corresponds to Loios 30, and that the letter may have been written on Loios 15 (the first
numerical sign is missing in line 7). That date, supposed Edgar (1928, 15), was sometime in
October 250 BCE.
89 He is called, rather, ὑοφορβός (“swineherd”, Edgar 1928, 14), which must mean that, while
free, he was of low social status. (Persons of higher status would not have managed pigs.)
The noun ὑοφορβός is equivalent to συφορβός (“swineherd”, Liddell, Scott and Jones 1940,
1737 s.v. συφορβός). Lexicographers use the following passages to support this definition:
Homer Il. 21.282; Od. 14.504; Theocritus Id. 16.54 (variant reading); Plutarch Rom. 6.
90 The third pers. sing. perf. indic. act. of ἀνακεχώρηκε(ν) occurs at BGU XVI 2645.4-5 (19
February 13 BCE); P.Athen. 19.9 (28 October-26 November CE 153); P.Cair.Zen. III
59310.2, 4 (25 October 250 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. IV 59590.4 (246-245 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. IV
59613.2 (275-225 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. IV 59620.25 (248-239 BCE); P.Cair.Zen. V 59837.4
(252 BCE); P.Lille I 3,76 (216-215 BCE); UPZ I 121.2-3, 21 (12 August 156 BCE).
91 E.g., “Orsenouphis ... removed abroad [ἀνεχώρησεν] some considerable time ago, having no
property [[πό]ρον μὴ ἔχων]” (P.Oxy. XXXIII 2669.7-10 [CE 41-54]; trans. Parsons, Rea and
Turner 1968, 98); “and we swear by Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Imperator that Orsenouphis has removed [ἀνακ[ε]χωρηκέναι] and that there is no property
belonging to him [κ[αὶ] μὴ ὑπάρχειν αὐτῷ | πόρο[ν]]” (P.Oxy. XXXIII 2669.10-15 [CE 41-
54]; trans. Parsons, Rea and Turner 1968, 98).
110 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Rea and Turner 1968, 97; Orrieux 1983, 120-122). A papyrus from CE 180-192
illustrates that the village of Nemeo contained a high percentage of defaulters-
turned-desperadoes: although the original population consisted of “150 hommes”
(Kambitsis 1985, 59), the number later dropped to 45, out of whom no fewer than
34 “took to flight” (ἀνακεχω(ρηκέναι)), leaving 11 to pay the tax (P.Thmouis I
70.20). Later the amount imposed “aux fugitifs” (Kambitsis 1985, 61, for [τοῖς
ἀνακε]χω(ρηκόσι), P.Thmouis I 70.22) was erased by a kindly administrator. 92
The scenario suggests that only a fine line separated the financially solvent from
the insolvent. That fluidity is reflected in Petos’ plight too: once he “held”
(εἶχ[ε]ν) a large number of sacrificial animals for the benefit of those persons who
had written the papyrus (εἶχ[ε]ν δ᾿ ἡμῖν υ ἱερεῖα, P.Cair.Zen. III 59310.3), and still
“owed” some 211 δελφάκια for the tribute (καὶ δελ]φάκια [π]ρ[ος]ώφειλε[ν] εἰς
τὸμ φ[ό]ρον σια, P.Cair.Zen. III 59310.3). 93 But Petos could not pay. Therefore,
he had “withdrawn” (ἀνακεχώρηκεν, P.Cair.Zen. III 59310.2, 4), a word twice
used to describe the flight of runaway slaves in UPZ I 121.2-3, 18 (12 August 156
BCE). 94 The examples suggest that there would have been little or no difference
between “withdrawal” and “flight” in actual practice, and that both slaves and
persons of free but low social status could be involved.
Pearson has criticized the suggestion that Paul’s ἐχωρίσθη (“he was parted from
you”, Phlm 15a RSV) could hint subtly at what had been Onesimus’ flight: “the
very prefixing of this form [ἀνακεχώρηκεν] argues strongly for the fact that the
stem, on its own, did not carry the sense for which Nordling argues” (Pearson
1999, 266 n. 30; original emphasis; contra Nordling 1991, 109 n. 2). 95 It is worth
pointing out, however, that compound verbs prefixed by prepositions frequently
intensify the meanings of uncompounded verbs that share common stems—such
as, e.g., ἀναβλέπω/βλέπω, ἀναζάω/ζάω, ἀνίστημι/ἵστημι, or ἀναλαμβάνω/
λαμβάνω; 96 thus, the compound ἀναχωρέω (“to withdraw, run away”) might seem,

92 Kambitsis 1985, 61: “le comogrammate ... a rayé des rôles les sommes imposées aux fugitifs.
Il a ajouté que l’ex-préfet Annius Syriacus décida sur des cas analogues en l’an 3, quand il
tenait ses assises pour le nome, que les «non-fugitifs» devaient s’acquitter des sommes qui
leur étaient imposées”.
93 Obviously, the phrase εἰς τὸμ φ[ό]ρον represents an orthographic variant for εἰς τὸν φ[ό]ρον,
the definite article τόμ being interchangeable for τόν in documents of this type.
94 Wilcken 1927, 573: “ist ein Sklave ... entlaufen” (for παῖς ἀνακεχώ-| ρηκεν, UPZ I 121.1-2);
and “Da ist aber auch einer, der mit ihm entlaufen ist, Bion, eine Sklave ..., der ... geflohen ist
(for ἔστιν δὲ καὶ ὁ συναποδεδρακὼς αὐτῶι | Βίων δοῦλος ... | ὅς ... ἀνακεχώρηκεν, UPZ I
121.17-21). Moule (1957, 36) twice translates the verb ἀνακεχώρηκεν in UPZ I 121.2-3, 21
as “run away”. The same verb has been translated as “absconded” (Nordling 1991, 101).
95 Arzt-Grabner likewise denies (2003, 104-05) that the verb ἐχωρίσθη has the meaning “he was
separated” in the documentary papyri.
96 For these and many other examples cf.
v_verb-compd-all.pdf. Accessed 28 December 2009.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon111

at first blush, to intensify the more generic meaning in χωρίζω (“to separate, part,
sever, divide”) since both verbs share the same stem (-χωρ-). A more difficult fact
is that the two verbs in question employ different terminations: -έω (which
terminates ἀναχωρέω) is often intransitive (Smyth 1920, 245 §866.2), whereas -ίζω
(which terminates χωρίζω) denotes action (Smyth 1920, 245 §866.6). However,
further digging reveals that χωρίζω in the passive voice frequently possessed an
intransitive meaning 97 and on this basis the connection between ἀνακεχώρηκεν and
ἐχωρίσθη rests secure. Is it really such a stretch to suspect, then, that Paul’s
apparently innocent ἐχωρίσθη (Phlm 15a) conjured—for readers who would have
understood the deeper associations of the Greek language—all the “baggage” we
see connected to ἀνακεχώρηκεν in the preceding paragraph? I think not; and so
Pearson’s objection really amounts to an overly fastidious understanding of Paul’s
ἐχωρίσθη—one, I submit, that is out of sync with the apostle’s habits of writing
one thing yet really meaning something else (irony), 98 delighting in palpable
crudities (e.g., Gal 5:12; Phil 3:2), or of reveling in ideas that seem extreme even
when softened by translation (e.g., 1 Cor 4:15; 2 Cor 11:19-20; Gal 4:19, 15). If,
moreover, Paul’s ἐχωρίσθη possessed the doubled sense that I am proposing here,
it would possess the type of duality encountered elsewhere in the letter, such as,
e.g., τὰ σπλάγχνα (Phlm 7, 12, 20), 99 πρεσβύτης (Phlm 9), 100 ὀναίμην (Phlm
20), 101 and ἐγέννησα (Phlm 10). 102 Thus, the suggestion that Paul’s ἐχωρίσθη
alerted readers in the know to a deeper appreciation of Onesimus’ treachery seems
quite plausible. Only bias against the traditional interpretation keeps some scholars
from considering what would otherwise be a quite compelling interpretation.

97 BAGD 2000, 1095 2b s.v. χωρίζω: “be taken away, take one’s departure, go away”, on the
basis of Acts 1:4; 18:1, 2. These additional passages establish the intransitive meaning: LXX
1 Chr 12:9; 2 Macc 5:21; 10:19; 12:12; 1 Cor 7:10, 11, 15.
98 As evidence of irony (εἰρωνεία) “of the sharpest kind” BDF (1961, 262 §495) cite 1 Cor 4:8;
and 2 Cor 11:19-20.
99 Refers both to Paul’s “heart” (entrails, inmost parts) and Onesimus. So Lightfoot 1886, 311,
338-39; Dunn 1996, 330; Glaze 1996, 10; Baumert 2001, 143; Nordling 2007, 81; Kreitzer
2008, 24.
100 Means “old man” (NIV), but probably sounded like πρεσβευτής (“ambassador”)—which is,
in fact, the translation assigned by RSV. Dunn supposed (1996, 327) that Paul was between
50 and 60 years old when he wrote Phlm.
101 An apparent pun on Onesimus’ name (cf. v. 10), though commonly translated, “I want some
benefit” (RSV). So Lightfoot 1886, 343; Vincent 1897, 159, 191; Moule 1957, 149;
Houlden 1977, 231-32; Nordling 2004, 277; 2007, 81; Kreitzer 2008, 28.
102 Paul “begot” Onesimus by bringing him to faith. So Vincent 1897, 185; Houlden 1977, 230;
O’Brien 1982, 290-91; Frilingos 2000; Kreitzer 2008, 14. For Paul’s “spiritual fatherhood”
elsewhere cf. 1 Cor 4:15; Gal 4:19.
112 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

IV. Conclusion
This article demonstrates, first, that supposed distinctions between servile
“roaming” and “running away” have been exaggerated; second, that Onesimus
could well have been an important slave in Philemon’s employ rather than a
menial; and, third, that additional evidence favours the various possibilities
attached to the runaway slave hypothesis in Philemon—such as, e.g., that
responsible slaves routinely had access to the master’s wealth, were fully capable
of betraying trusting masters and mistresses without provocation, and were
susceptible to the same sort of servile diversions one suspects Onesimus could
easily have fallen prey to, if one may think imaginatively about such matters.
Observations that the traditional reconstruction represents “a legend without
foundation” 103 or “a fiction of Pauline interpreters” (Harrill 2006, 7) seem
unwarranted; on the contrary, the parables featuring dishonest or less-than-
enterprising slave stewards in the gospels (Part II) provide a plausible
interpretative context for understanding Onesimus’ likely role in Philemon’s
household also. Indeed, Paul’s letter to Philemon cries out for the interpretation
that Onesimus, a once trusted slave in Philemon’s employ, took advantage of the
confidence reposed on him by stealing from his master, falsifying the latter’s
accounts, falling into arrears, or “harming” Philemon in still other ways—now
dimly known to us—that would have involved a lot of money (cf. P.Mich III
173.1-17, in Part III above). From the parable of the dishonest steward (Luke
16:1-8a) we may take it that a subordinate’s behaviour was a reflection upon the
master’s honour (Landry and May 2000, 299); thus a steward who squandered the
latter’s property would make the master “look like a fool in front of his peers”
(Kloppenborg 1989, 488). A similar scenario between Onesimus and Philemon
transpired, then, causing such a ruckus in Philemon’s household that Paul, writing
for Christians of a “high-context” society, would hardly have had to drop the sort
of details many assume must accompany crises of this type. 104 It should not be too
difficult to see, however, that the aftermath of this situation necessarily involved
Paul himself, Philemon, Onesimus, the affected congregation in Philemon’s

103 Houlden 1977, 226. Cited in Taylor 1996, 260; Wansink 1996, 177 n.6; Pearson 1999, 260 n.
8; Byron 2008, 124.
104 Trainor 2008, 5: “[T]he letters to Philemon and Colossians presume information well-known
to their audiences. This presumption indicates that the letters were written in a ‘high-
context’ society. High-context societies produce sketchy and impressionistic texts, leaving
much to the reader’s or hearer’s imagination. Since people believe few things have to be
spelled out, few things are in fact spelled out. This is so because people have been socialized
into shared ways of perceiving and acting, and therefore much can be assumed. What is
communicated is understood by those who hear the letters. Detailed information does not
have to be spelled out. The context of understanding is ‘high,’ that is, it is highly
understandable” (original emphasis).
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon113

“house” (οἶκόν σου, Phlm 2), and many other Christians—both near and far
removed—who were linked to one another in the bond of faith (cf. Trainor’s
“extended network zones” [2008, 23-24]). 105 Granted, Paul drops few details in
the letter about any of these possibilities, but Paul would not have had to elaborate
because the situation was well known to all (note 104 above) and he was being
diplomatic. Indeed, we should assume that, in responding to a difficult situation,
Paul exemplified all the tact 106 that befits a person who occupies apostolic office in
the church, an office originally embodied by Paul himself (Wright 1986, 180-81;
Barth and Blanke 2000, 310; Nordling 2004, 154-55). Other qualities that befit
pastors and office-holders are sincerity, unselfishness, humility, gravity,
cheerfulness, purity, patience and endurance, and faithfulness (Fritz 1932, 15-17).
Paul exhibited all these qualities—and then some—in his letter to Philemon.
Thus far side-stepped is the criticism of assuming prior conclusions and reading
in interpretative backgrounds not warranted by the text. The goal is to be “as open
and transparent as possible” (Pearson 1999, 280; cf. 255, 256), something for
which earlier scholarship on Philemon has been roundly criticized. 107 Perhaps,
however, “reading in” interpretative backgrounds is not as great a problem as
Pearson supposes. That there should be some historical context associated with the
letter has long been recognized; 108 it is just that traditional scholars cannot quite
agree on the specific shape of the reconstruction because too many key details are
missing (Garland 1998, 293; Nordling 2004, 1). However, living with a bit of
haziness about how historical details may have converged seems infinitely better
than what can only be called an agnosticism-bordering-on-arrogance that
translators should try to read the text of Philemon “as if they know nothing certain
about its background, because they do not” (Pearson 1999, 280). 109 That opinion
seems already to have decided the issue, so there can be no point in noticing certain
background matters that really do support the runaway slave hypothesis in

105 The letter presumes that a kind of “pipeline” existed between Paul (wherever he was when he
wrote Phlm), large numbers of Christians in the Lycus Valley (Kirkland 1995, 111-13), and
possibly Christians still further east who had been won for Christ as early as the first
missionary journey (Acts 14:21; 16:1, 6; 18:23; Nordling 2004, 36-38; 2010).
106 Defined by Fritz (1932, 16) as a mental discernment shown in “avoiding what would offend
or disturb”.
107 Pearson 1999, 259: “John Nordling’s article [1991] ... displays the continued uncritical usage
of the traditional background story of Philemon to interpret the letter”. Pearson singles
others out for the same defect, albeit to a lesser extent: 1999, 255 n. 4 (against Knox 1960);
1999, 259 n. 8 (against Winter 1984, 211 n. 19; Petersen 1985, 43-88); 1999, 274 n. 52
(against Knox 1960, 51-61; Winter 1984, 1-2).
108 E.g., Duncan 1929, 72-75; Dodd 1934, 80; Harrison 1950, 271, 281; Franzmann 1961, 127-
29; Guthrie 1970, 635-39; Bruce 1965-66, 96-97; 1984, 193-96.
109 Very similar is Pearson’s conviction (1999, 280) that Phlm is “an almost context-less letter
with an obscure subject matter”.
114 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Philemon, if one may dare to consider the possibility. Some have conceded, of
course, that “weaknesses and fallacies… beset the traditional reconstruction”
(Taylor 1996, 260); it should be pointed out, however, that hypotheses which
discount the traditional interpretation are “equally contrived” and thus raise “at
least as many problems as [they] answer questions” (Taylor 1996, 260). 110
The present article does nothing more than fill in the sort of background details
to Philemon that any reader should imagine when he or she encounters a document
whose background is not obvious. Any reader can see that the exact background
details of Philemon cannot be recovered with certainty! That admission hardly
scuppers the runaway slave hypothesis, however, for circumstances pertinent to
understanding Philemon better may be reconstructed on the basis of the type of
evidence provided in Part III above. Treatment there resembles the archaeologist’s
conceptual reconstruction of a temple from the rubble of shattered columns,
pediment fragments, and roof tiles that litter many ancient sites. A perceptive
reader of Philemon should look at how what we have in the letter fits in with other,
fuller patterns in the ancient world, and go from there. If readers cannot engage in
plausible reconstruction, the path to reading Philemon comprehendingly is
blocked. Hence, scholars who argue, e.g., that the runaway slave hypothesis in
Philemon cannot exist because Paul is not more forthcoming in the letter 111 fail to
see easily explained complications Paul faced when he wrote Philemon, and why it
would not have behooved him—psychologically and theologically—to be more up
Why would Paul have hedged so much over the exact details of the wrongs that
were done (apparently) on both sides, by Onesimus and Philemon? If the letter
were intended only for Philemon, there would be no need to hold back. But Paul
must have known that his letters were already living much greater afterlives as they
circulated in the Christian communities (Malina 2008; Trainor 2008). In other
words, there must have been an acknowledged communal purpose to the letter
besides the personal one of fixing up a broken relationship between an injured
master and his slave. 112 Thus, the runaway slave hypothesis delivers a much
greater theological punch than many lesser options that have been proposed since
Knox (1959; 1960), and this despite the fact that Knox’s imaginative
reconstructions “have occupied the minds of NT scholars for almost four
generations” (Byron 2008, 123). Already demonstrated is what runaways could
expect from outraged masters “by the letter of the law” (Nordling 1991, 114-16); to

110 Taylor (1996, 260) cites the following as studies that have been “founded upon the
traditional reconstruction”: Feeley-Harnik 1982; Petersen 1985; Barclay 1991.
111 E.g. Winter 1987, 3, 7; Callahan 1997, 8; Horsley 1998, 182; Baumert 2001, 135.
112 Kreitzer 2008, 13: “[T]he letter was not simply a private communication, and there is every
reason to assume that it would have had a wider audience than just Philemon himself”. Cf.
also Wickert 1961, 235; Winter 1984, 206; Petersen 1985, 65-78.
NORDLING Matters Favouring Runaway Slave Hypothesis in Philemon115

this should be added the extreme disappointment masters likely felt toward
promising slaves who “threw their lives away” by stealing entrusted funds and
running away. This latter reaction has not survived antiquity in so many words.
However, in the parable of the talents the slave who buries the one talent and
returns it in full to his master is cast out into the night (Matt 25:30), and the wastrel
son in another parable expected to be disowned by his father (Luke 15:19, 21).
What Onesimus did to Philemon and the congregation was far worse, as any reader
suspects who can connect the dots. This, then, is where the best theological
potential lies—not in accounting for lesser matters that conceivably transpired
between Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus, but in setting a scenario for radical grace
and the forgiveness of sins. And the likelihood that forgiveness prevailed in
Philemon’s house (instead of an horrific beating, or something worse) 113 suggests
why the church remembered the repaired relationship between Philemon and
Onesimus at all. Indeed, some have supposed Paul’s briefest letter provides a clue
as to the identity of the one who put the Pauline corpus together in the first place:
Onesimus himself (Goodspeed 1947, 215; Knox 1957; 1959, 8, 107; 1960, 63-78;
Gamble 1975; Kreitzer 2008, 16).
In short, there is still plenty to commend the runaway slave hypothesis in
Philemon. This article adds to the evidence and restates the case in ways that
demonstrate that the traditional interpretation is still viable and, in many ways,
preferable to other explanations that have been proposed.

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116 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

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Peter Nyende
Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology

In view of the ethnic crisis in Africa and the complexities of the discipline of
Biblical Studies, one wonders how African biblical scholarship could address
ethnic issues in Africa through its study of the Bible and its Biblical Studies
curriculum. I identify three ways of addressing ethnicity through Biblical
Studies which I argue for, make sense of, and distinguish by means of
methodology (broadly conceived), and the goals of African biblical scholarship.

1. Introduction
I have argued in a recent article (Nyende 2009) that due to the current ethnic crisis
in Africa, there is an urgent need to include ethnic studies in the curriculum of
theological education in Africa. In the same article, I have proposed in general
terms the ways in which ethnic studies could be included in the curriculum of
theological institutions in Africa. In view of this urgent need, and in turning from
general ways in which ethnic studies can be included in theological education in
Africa to particular ways in which ethnic studies can be absorbed in the discipline
of Biblical Studies (unless otherwise, BS from here on) in Africa, the question
before us as biblical scholars in Africa is this: how do we address ethnic issues
through the study of the Bible and in the BS curriculum that we offer? I attempt in
this paper to provide an answer to this question by proposing some ways in which
ethnic concerns can be addressed in the field of BS in Africa and thus, ipso facto,
integrate ethnic studies into BS in Africa.
While restricting myself to proposals which are commensurate with the goals of
African biblical scholarship, I will suggest ways of addressing ethnicity through
BS which I will argue for, make sense of, and distinguish by means of
methodology (broadly conceived). The ordering of my proposals around methods,
and restricting them to what is commensurate with the goals of African biblical
scholarship is requisite since, as it has been observed, any “academic study of
anything requires that those involved should consider three questions: why, what
and how” (Sharpe 2005, 21). In concrete terms, the academic study of any subject
(what?) is best understood along the lines of the method (how?) used to study that
subject and to what end (why?).

Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 122-139

© New Testament Society of South Africa
NYENDE Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies 123

In BS however, plotting the study of a given subject on how and why is

complicated because there is no single method in the discipline concerning how to
proceed in studying a specified subject, and there is bound to be no agreement on
the purpose for undertaking such a study. Indeed in BS today there is no
agreement on the philosophy of the discipline. In addition, there is also an acute
appreciation of difficulties in trying to arrive at the meaning of a Bible text and in
trying to determine the goals for which those meanings are sought. For this reason,
biblical scholars are not all doing the same thing with the text, nor do they have the
same scholarly goals in view. Methodological clarity and philosophical choices
are, therefore, a necessity if one is to avoid indiscriminate and, subsequently
incomprehensible, or chaotic ways, of addressing ethnicity (and other subjects)
academically through BS. This state of affairs in BS deserves a further, albeit
brief, discussion in what follows, before suggesting ways in which ethnic issues
can be addressed through BS.

2. State of Biblical Studies

2.1 Methodological Pluralism

Broadly speaking, the emergence of historical critical studies for systematic
interpretations of the Bible in the 1700s and their development in the 1800s
fostered a sense of unity in biblical interpretations where the goal of interpreting
the meaning of a text was perceived as arriving, through grammatico-historical
methods, at some objective historical meaning of the text. Biblical scholars and
others alike who intended to apply readings of the Bible to contemporary issues of
ecclesia and society would have had such a determinate meaning of a text as their
starting point. 1
However, two shifts occurred in succession which displaced historical criticism
as the central method, or at least disturbed its hegemony, in studying the Bible.
“Close reading” (similar to “formalism” and “New Criticism”) emerged in the
1920s 2 and shifted the reading of texts from their social and historical context, and

1 J. P. Gabler [1753-1856] (Eldredge and Sandys-Wunsch (1980), was perhaps the first one to
delineate this clearly in an attempt to free biblical research from dogmatic theology and in
effect to herald the sub-discipline of biblical theology in BS. For more on Gabler’s
programme see Eldredge and Sandys-Wunsch (1980), Morgan (1987) and Stuckenbruck
(1999). It seems that the influence of Gabler’s programme still endures in, for example,
Standahl (1962), in whose articulations Stuckenbruck (1999, 154-57) sees Gabler’s
sentiments in modern garb.
2 The impact of this approach though was to be felt in biblical studies only from the 1960s; see
Detweiler and Robbins (1991) for more. Some of the hermeneutical approaches which close
reading has spawned include: Narrative criticism, Reader-Response criticism, Structural
criticism, Rhetorical criticism, and Literary criticism. See Hartin and Petzer (1991), Malbon
124 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

from the writer’s mind and life, to the text itself. In interpreting a text what
mattered was the text itself, its structure, architecture, intrinsic form and the
internal relationships of its parts. A literary reading of texts was called for - this is
the so called “textual paradigm”. 3 Then in the 1960s, the textual paradigm was
itself challenged by the emergence of poststructural criticism, which shifted the
controlling principle in reading texts from the text itself to the reader. The reader
mattered most since s/he was the one understood to confer meaning to a text (“the
readers paradigm”). Consequently, the field of BS is a methodogically plural and
contested ground.
In the first instance, any method proposed or practised in the place of historical
criticism brings with it new and perhaps weightier philosophical and theological
problems, enough to have it challenged or rejected as well. For example, a reader-
orientated approach to the study of the Bible may be charged with watering down
the historical contingencies of a Bible text vital to its meaning (Noble 1996),
and/or with solipsism, which is nothing more than a projection of the whims and
desire of the reader onto the text, the stuff of textual manipulation. Whilst literary
approaches as a way of studying the Bible could be opposed on the grounds that
they are divorcing the Bible from its theological reality (Childs 1992, 723), or (for
structuralism) that in the absence of an outside reference or the transcendentally
signified in language, what we have is an endless differential network of signs
referring infinitely to signs-and-more-signs and not meaning at all (Derrida 1981,
Secondly, any attempt at an integration of these methods faces the difficulty of
competing methods and, at times, irreconcilable philosophical presuppositions
behind the methods. Indeed some attempts have been made to integrate various
methodologies in BS. 4 The problem, though, with such proposals is that the
philosophical presuppositions of the individual approaches that do not agree seem
overlooked, yet integration presupposes complementary modes of studying the
Bible which take us in the same direction. For example, in noting that: “Every
method is…anchored to a set of underlying presuppositions that determine the set
of questions to be put to a text; and the answers are those expected in advance”
(Tate 2003, 195), Tate seems to touch on this problem of conflict but falls short of
addressing how such a problem could be transcended in integrating methods of
studying the Bible.
The alternative to integration is exclusivism, a “balkanization” of
hermeneutical approaches in BS. For example, Templeton (1999, 293-329), who
clearly understands the philosophical presuppositions at stake, chooses literary

and McKnight (1994) and Porter (1997) for a broad look at these new approaches in BS, and
Minor (1996) and Powell (1992) for comprehensive bibliographies.
3 See Seldon (1989).
4 See Tate (2003) and Jonker (1997).
NYENDE Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies 125

criticism to the exclusion of historical criticism in reading the Bible. For him, the
Bible is literature rather than history on the basis that “many realities of which the
NT speaks are simply not accessible to the historian. What we have in the NT is
the language of the human heart, the language of emotion …” (Templeton 1999,
306). The Bible then should be approached literarily; a position whose
implications he alludes to in his pronouncement: “To lose the Bible as history is
not to lose truth, but to lose one kind of it and find another. But we have not lost it
and do not lose it. We change the question merely” (Templeton 1999, 327). But
the disadvantage of capitulating to exclusivism in hermeneutical approaches is to
fail to do justice to the complexity of the genre of biblical literature which seem to
make room for more than one approach in making sense of the Bible. As Barton
points out, “the Old (and New) Testament contain(s) some very strange literature;
perhaps it will not be surprising if it takes more than one kind of sensibility to
understand it” (Barton 1994, 15, in brackets mine).
It seems that methodological pluralism in BS cannot be eliminated. To avoid,
therefore, indiscriminate and in effect chaotic or incomprehensible ways of
studying the Bible, those involved in any study or teaching of the Bible must be
clear on how they intend to study the Bible and to what end. Such clarity and
choice may not be easy to make, because they entail an awareness of hermeneutics,
a capacity to balance subordinate judgements, and an awareness of the variable
scholarly goals in Bible study. This may be the reason why a generation ago Keck
(1974, 435) hoped for, somehow, a convergence of approaches leading to a
redefined common method in BS. To the contrary, multiple methods of studying
the Bible in BS are, in principle, commonplace. 5

2.2 Philosophical Bifurcation

I have already pointed out, in view of methodological pluralism in BS, the need for
clarity in method and to what end we employ it for our Bible study. Unmasking
goals for the study of the Bible not only reveals the ends for which the Bible is
studied, but in addition, they provide perspectives on, and orientation to, the Bible.
This is because the goals for which the Bible ought to be studied are directly
related to the views held on the nature and functions of the Bible. Some years back
Fiorenza (1990) identified two broad approaches to the nature and function of
Bible in recent times in BS which may be understood to make the Bible requisite
for study. The first approach we may call the “functional view” of the Bible. Here
the nature and function of the Bible is understood in virtue of its functions in the
church (and society at large): i.e., because the Bible is used by the Christian

5 Various attempts at ways forward from the problem of methodology pluralism which have
been offered are a good indication of the problem; see for example Clines (1993), Hengel
(1996), Bockmuehl (1998), Bartholomew et al (2001), and Johnson and William (2002).
126 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

community to understand its faith and order its life, it must be reckoned with as
such. Consequently, the need to study the Bible is grounded in the
acknowledgement of its significance to Christian communities and perhaps in the
fact that the Bible is too potent and relevant to Christian communities to be left to
The second approach we may call the “canonical view” of the Bible. Here the
nature and function of the Bible is understood on the basis of its divine and
definitive content. With regard to its divine content, for example, the Bible is
understood as God’s self-communication and, therefore, taken to be absolutely
vital for understanding his nature, and his will and purposes for the world. As
regards its definitive content, the Bible’s content is viewed as the locus of the
primal events and traditions that constitute the beginnings of the Christian
community; because these primal events and traditions are considered to be
definitive of the identity and self-understanding of the Church (ever since), the
Bible is required in forming authentic Christian communities. The canonical view
of the Bible houses a variety of understandings of the divine nature of the Bible in
words such as, “inspired”, “sacred”, “revelational”, “authoritative”, on the basis of
which the Bible is looked upon for provision of truths to live by and act upon, and
the context within which to appropriate and understand one’s existence.
Functional and canonical views of the Bible are not the only persuasions
regarding the nature and function of the Bible; we may add to them a third view,
viz., the “historical view” of the Bible. Here the Bible is viewed no less and no
more than a historical document or artefact, with its theological nature and current
value largely ignored if at all reckoned with. On the basis of such a persuasion, the
Bible is not privileged as such, nor is there a distinction made between the Bible
and other historical-religious literary artefacts. In addition, and consequently, the
Bible is not looked upon as a body of authoritative literature by which Christian
communities ought to fashion their lives, values and convictions.
Scholars and scholarly communities who hold to a functional or canonical view
of the Bible would, with few exceptions, consider their efforts to study the Bible,
and the products of their study, to be useful to, and in some way normative for,
Christian communities and the socio-economic and political contexts which they
inhabit. They would also, in various ways and shades of emphases, have this
usefulness of their Bible study as their goal and motivation. For these reasons,
scholars with a functional or canonical view of the Bible actively implicate their
biblical interpretatio in their ethical, political, social, and cultic concerns or
involvement. In contrast, scholars and scholarly communities who hold to an
historical view of the Bible would not be in sympathy with such goals and may
actually resist them. Scholarly communities that hold to an historical view of the
Bible would not consciously consider the results of their Bible study to be of
current use nor normative to any Christian community, rather, they would tend to
NYENDE Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies 127

see their work as one of historical value. That is, the goals of their study of the
Bible would be mostly understood as one of reconstructing, enlightening and
understanding the past (i.e., the history of early Christianity).
Small wonder that the history of BS has had struggles between these two goals
of studying the Bible, together with the views on the nature and function of the
Bible which they belie. From the field of NT studies, for example, William Wrede
at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, 6 Albert Outler in the middle of
Twentieth Century, 7 and most recently Heikki Räisänen, 8 would be prominent
representatives of scholars who locate the goals of their study of the Bible within
the interests of understanding (early Christian religion’s) history. This is in
contrast to Franz Overbeck 9 and Adolph Schlatter 10 at the beginning of the
Twentieth Century, and more recently Stephen Fowl (1998), who would be
prominent representatives of scholars who locate the goals of their study of Bible
within its sacred content, which they argue needs to be understood for application
in theology and church. 11 Now, depending on the scholarly community in which
one finds him or herself, one or the other view of the Bible and the related goal of
its study predominates.
If we are to address ethnic issues through an intelligible and comprehensible
Bible study and through an orderly BS curriculum and syllabi, then clarity in
methodology, and choices on the goal for the Bible study are both necessary and
decisive. In the light of these conclusions, I will, in what follows, propose and
distinguish ways in which ethnic concerns can be addressed via BS by means of
methodology. My proposals will be limited to what is useful to the goals of
African biblical scholarship. Throughout my proposals, I will appeal to actual
studies by biblical scholars who have addressed ethnic issues via their Bible study
and in effect show that my proposals are already being carried out in the works of
individual Bible scholars and perhaps what remains is for African biblical
scholarship to adopt them in their study of the Bible and BS curriculum in order to
address African ethnic issues.
Since I will restrict my proposals on ways of addressing ethnic issues through
BS to those ways which are commensurate with the philosophy and goals of
African biblical scholarship, the following observations are in order. As I have

6 For more see Morgan (1973, 1-67 and 68-116) and Matlock (1997).
7 For more see Keck (1981).
8 See Räisänen (2000) but also Koester (1975) for more.
9 See Keck (1981).
10 See Morgan (1973, 117-166).
11 Although I have drawn my examples on the goals and philosophy for studying the Bible
mostly from the field of New Testament (Biblical) Theology, such discussions are all too
often present in discourse on Bible interpretation or biblical hermeneutics: see, for example,
Schneider (1999), Fowl (1997), and Mosala (1989).
128 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

shown in an earlier study (Nyende 2005, 513), African Bible scholars tend to study
the Bible circumstantially, to address a perceived pastoral, moral, even political
problem. In other words, they study the Bible with the aim of relating it to the
church and to the life of the society. 12 This is supported further by virtually all
discourse by African biblical scholars on hermeneutics which advocate ways of
interpreting the Bible which are engaged ecclesially, socio-politically and
economically with African issues. 13 This kind of Bible study by African biblical
scholars (and theologians) betrays a dominant philosophy and goal in African
biblical scholarship, viz., the Bible (in keeping with the canonical and functional
view described earlier) is in some specific and definite ways the word of God
written and as such an expression of divine will and disclosure, and an
authoritative source of inspiration, truth and instruction to Christian communities,
often in relationship to the socio-economic and political context they inhabit—
African society at large. In other words, according to our views of the Bible
discussed above, the predominant view of the Bible that prevails in African biblical
scholarship is the canonical view. For this reason, the Bible is studied and its
interpretation brought to bear on contemporary ecclesial and societal issues. With
this is mind, we are now in a position to turn to my proposals on the ways in which
ethnic issues in Africa can be addressed through BS in Africa.

3. Ways of Addressing Ethnicity via BS

3.1 Addressing ethnic issues through the Bible’s teaching

I propose that the most direct and perhaps most obvious way of addressing
ethnicity through BS is by finding out what the Bible says or teaches directly about
ethnicity and bringing that to bear on ethnic issues. This could take place in three
distinct modes. In the first mode, a teaching of a Bible text relevant to an ethnic
issue (which would concretely revolve around Israel and other nations in the Old
Testament, or around Jews and various ethnic populations [Gentiles] especially the
Greeks, and perhaps on discourse of a new identity in Christ in the New
Testament) is used to advocate or inspire certain values, practices, beliefs which
mitigate the negative aspects of ethnicity (ethnocentrism). Relevant Bible texts
could also be used to question and correct certain values, practices or beliefs which
foster the negative aspects of ethnicity.

12 African institutional interpretations of the Bible have this end to their interpretations; see my
discussion (Nyende 2007) for more.
13 See Abogunrin (2005), Manus (2003), Ukpong (2000 and 1995), Ntreh (1990) and Mosala
NYENDE Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies 129

It is important to note here that although texts on Israel and other nations in the
Old Testament, and on Jews and various Gentile groups in the New Testament, are
the predominant discourse in which one can find what the Bible has directly to say
or teach about ethnicity, it should not be presumed that such discourse is therefore
either dated or of value only to Jewish-Christian relations. Such texts have
informed and can inform ethnicity generally and other ethnic relations. Biblical
scholars such as John Barclay and Timothy Beal have done exactly this in their
Bible studies. Barclay (1996) reflects exegetically on Paul’s words that “there is
neither Jew nor Greek...” (Gal 3.28) with the conclusion that Paul envisions “an
alternative form of community which could bridge ethnic and cultural divisions by
creating new patterns of common life” (210). As for Beal (1997), “The book of
Esther is about surviving dead ends: living beyond the end determined for those
projected as quintessentially not-self (or ‘other’), the privileged representatives of
divergence, marked as sacrifices for the furtherance of a vision of identity and
political homogeneity” (107). It is possible to envisage studies on the Bible by
African biblical scholars, and BS courses offered in African theological institutions
which, by design, major on such kinds of study. Courses for study could be
offered which discuss broadly the Bible’s content relevant to ethnicity such as
“Paul and Ethnicity” or “The Synoptic Gospels and Ethnicity”. Alternatively,
courses for study could be offered which discuss a book of the Bible or a specific
text of the Bible relevant to an ethnic issue such as ‘Esther and Ethnicity” or
“Romans and Christian Identity”.
However, there are problematic texts in the Bible which can be seen to teach
ethnocentrism directly, and whose teaching, then, rather than addressing corrosive
ethnic issues actually appears to foster them. Indeed the history of the use of the
Bible through the centuries offers numerous examples where the Bible has been
used to advocate ethnocentrism. The most overt and deadly example of this here in
Africa is the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Munyeneza’s (2003) study shows that the
root of this genocide was ethnocentrism which was watered, in good measure, by
certain interpretations of portions of the Old Testament in which, for example, the
Abatutsi understood themselves to be like Israel of old and thus superior to their
neighbours, the Abahutu, who were understood to be the equivalent of the
Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites etc. Indeed, the geography of the Old
Testament was mapped on Rwanda with the result that Rwanda could be perceived
like Israel of old. The power of such uncritical readings of the Bible to shape
hostile and destructive ethnocentric attitudes is strong, and since one cannot
assume that such uses of the Bible have run their course, biblical scholarship in
Africa must grapple with these problematic texts in efforts to address ethnicity
130 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

through BS. 14 In such a spirit, we could have African biblical scholars investing in
studies on problematic texts. We could also offer BS courses in Africa, such as
“Sacred Texts and Ethnocentrism”, whose subject of study are these difficult texts.
In such courses deliberate attempts can be made not only to account for their
ethnocentric/racialist readings but also to show how they can be ethically or
responsibly interpreted in ways contrary to ethnocentric readings. This is the
second distinct mode of addressing ethnicity through what the Bible has to say or
teach directly about ethnicity.
Isolating and studying problematic texts, and offering ways in which
interpretations of these texts can be reshaped from ethnocentrism, is taking place
already in biblical scholarship. One of the ways offered in which problematic texts
can be re-read are symbolic interpretations which go beyond the literal sense of the
text to understand the communication from God somehow enshrined in the
problematic literal sense. 15 Another way is through rhetorical and polemical
interpretations. Such interpretations take seriously the historical context of these
writings together with the use of ethnic rhetoric in the face of threats to a
community and in the advancement of that community’s teachings. One outcome
of rhetorical and polemic interpretation is that care is exercised to distinguish
“between the encoded adversaries with their ascribed traits in the narrative world
of the text and their real life counterparts in the real world behind the text” (Bowe
2007, 100). 16
The third distinct mode of addressing ethnicity through direct teachings of the
Bible is through the values, principles, and vision of life which the Bible promotes.
Bible texts which promote the values of, for example, love, justice, oneness and
acceptance can be identified and studied by African biblical scholars, and offered
for study in the BS curriculum in Africa with the express intention of using them to
counter ethnocentrism. This way of addressing ethnicity could mean a re-reading
of the problematic texts which we have already looked at, that shifts focus away
from their potential ethnocentric teaching by emphasizing alternative motifs or
positive viewpoints within the Bible which in effect relativize the problematic texts
and rob them of their ethnocentric force. Such readings may also show that
biblical narratives unless critically scrutinized and carefully qualified, may not be
the ideal source of how to deal with the ethnically other. I would add here that
courses that broach Christians’ “New Identity in Christ” 17 and/or the “Universal

14 Fortunately, some biblical scholars have looked into these problematic texts that have
engendered ethnocentrism. See, for example, Anderson (2009), Sadler (2005 and 2006),
Hunter (2003), Stegemann (1996), Chilton (1993), and Sanders (1969).
15 See Bryon (2002), Culpepper (1983) and Bultmann (1971, 86ff).
16 See Bachmann (2009), Punt (2004), Malchow (1990), and Johnson (1989).
17 See, for example, Elser (2003) and Walter (1983).
NYENDE Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies 131

Scope of the Gospel” as portrayed in the writings of Paul can be offered since they
would be invaluable in helping address ethnocentrism which thrives on exclusive
ethnic identity and privilege, as well as on various forms of perceived ethnic
Directly using a teaching or discussion of a relevant portion of the Bible to bear
on ethnicity would not, and does not, privilege any precise method since several
methods can be used for this purpose or outcome. However, as you may have
gathered already, it does rule out all manner of reader-response and literary
methods that take no regard of the historical contingencies of the Bible. This is
because it is by virtue of the Bible consisting of God’s communication and
discourse, through historical persons, addressing real people, in real time, that
attempts are made to apply its content to contemporary times and situations. Put
differently, because the Bible is understood as God’s communication to peoples
past, that communication is understood to be universal and of permanent value, and
thus must be identified for, with and in, every culture and historical situation. In
consequence, methods that have no regard to the historical contingencies of the
Bible will in the final analysis subvert this way of using the Bible to address
ethnicity. For this reason, Bible scholars who have applied their readings of the
Bible to ethnic issues in the way described above have used methods that take the
historical contingencies of the Bible seriously.
Addressing ethnicity through what the Bible says and teaches directly will be of
significant value to, and easily upheld by, African biblical scholarship because
such a way of interpreting and using the Bible presupposes a canonical or
functional view of the Bible by virtue of which the teachings of the Bible bear on
the contemporary issue of ethnocentrism. This is because, as mentioned earlier,
African biblical scholarship has endeavoured, and endeavours, to make the Bible’s
message bear on African realities in the church and society in Africa because of the
canonical view held on the Bible. African biblical scholarship, then, should
explore such modes of studying the Bible in order to address ethnic issues in Africa
and offer the same in its BS curriculum. Certainly, this way of using and
interpreting the Bible has the potential to be highly effective in helping the church
and African society face the crisis of ethnicity in Africa. 18

18 However, it is worth noting here that these ways of studying the Bible, particularly its
problematic texts, which address ethnocentrism would not be acceptable to scholars who do
not hold a canonical view of the Bible. Some in fact would simply see the Bible as being at
the centre of the problem and thus unhelpful in addressing ethnocentrism. Hunter (2003, 92-
93), for examples has written: “… for we too often let the Bible off lightly in discussions of
the contribution it undoubtedly makes, and has made, to human bigotry, prejudice and
cruelty. …the Bible at many points (and not just in the “old” Testament) directly advocates
the violent suppression of the enemy.”
132 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

3.2 Addressing ethnic issues through the Bible’s example

The second way of addressing ethnicity through BS is, unlike the first above,
indirect and less obvious. In the first way of addressing ethnicity through BS, the
chief concern was with the application of relevant and specific content of the Bible
to ethnic issues; in this second way of addressing ethnicity through the Bible, the
focus is not on the Bible’s content per se but on the way in which the writers of the
Bible are seen to tackle ethnicity in their own time in order to use them as models
in our struggle to address contemporary ethnic issues. In other words, the Bible
becomes the model or paradigm to help us in addressing ethnicity in Africa.
Essentially, what is being done here is that the logic and spirit of the Bible author’s
way of addressing ethnicity wherever this may be found is put to use for
contemporary times. Some leading questions in studying the Bible for such a
purpose would be these: What strategies for combating ethnocentrism are
articulated in this text? What strategies for promoting love, justice, acceptance etc.
are to be found in this text? How does the text proceed in its implicit or explicit
reflection on ethnocentrism? On what sources (authorities) does the text draw? I
imagine a course such as “Tackling Ethnocentrism Paul’s Way” offered to cater for
this way of addressing ethnicity which by design would proceed by probing,
understanding, and evaluating how Paul deals with ethnocentrism in the places he
does so directly and indirectly. But such courses would not be limited to Pauline
Denise Buell and Caroline Hodge in their article, “The Politics of
Interpretation: The Rhetoric of Race and Ethnicity in Paul”, have not only
advocated this way of addressing ethno-racial issues through BS but have done that
in some measure in the same article. As they put it: “By analyzing how Paul
recrafts the possible meaning of Judeanness and Greekness, we are better equipped
to reimagine and envision communities in which differences are neither erased nor
hierarchically ranked” (Buell and Hodge 2004, 251). Buell and Hodge are
concerned with “traditional interpretations of Paul in which the understanding of
ethnicity or race as ‘given’ operates as a foil for a non-ethnic, all-inclusive
Christianity” (Buell and Hodge 2004, 236). Whilst, positively, such readings of
Paul have led to tackling racist and ethnocentric oppressions, Buell and Hodge feel
that negatively they have led as well to “racist and anti-Jewish effects” (Buell and
Hodge 2004, 237). For them the solution (which makes up the heart of their
article) lies in first understanding that in Paul’s world ethnicity, unlike many
modern theories of it, is mutable and, secondly, in a re-reading of Paul which gives
attention to the details of how Paul deals with the problem of real and apparent
Judean and Greek ethnic gulfs. In Buell and Hodge’s own words:
NYENDE Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies 133

Paul uses “ethnic reasoning” 19 to solve the problem of the exclusion of gentiles
from God’s promises to Israel. He constructs his arguments within the scope of
ethnoracial discourse, but shifts the terms of membership and the relationship
between existing groups—Greek and Judean—such that they can be brought into an
ethnoracial relationship with one another. Ethnic reasoning serves Paul well in that
it offers a model of unity and connection among peoples while still maintaining
differences. He preserves the categories of Greek or gentile and Judean while
uniting them, hierachically (“first the Judean, then the Greek”), under the umbrella
of Abraham’s descendants and God’s people (Buell and Hodge 2004, 238).
Such a way of addressing ethnicity through BS as demonstrated by Buell and
Hodge is promising and should be pursued in depth by African biblical
scholarship. The fact that those who are to use the Bible this way in tackling
ethnicity would have to embrace either a canonical or functional view of it means
that this way is an open avenue for African biblical scholarship to use the Bible as
a definitive and necessary resource in tackling ethnic problems bedevilling Africa.
With regard to methodological details of this way of addressing ethnicity
through BS, a variety of approaches which take seriously the historical
contingencies of the Bible text can be employed. But in addition, for such a way of
addressing ethnicity through BS to be successful as Buell and Hodge’s research
shows, Bible scholars and students must become familiar with, and engage
critically and comparatively with, both ancient and modern discourse on ethnicity
(and race), since knowledge of both gives one the tools to make informed, incisive
and critical evaluation of the way writers of the Bible tackle ethnic realities and
barriers from which one can learn and in turn participate in contemporary struggles
with ethnocentrism. Even though some theoretical orientation is needed in the
proposed ways above and below of addressing ethnic issues through BS, and also
needed for the purposes of unmasking tacit, if not uncritical, ethnic/racial views
which affect Bible interpretation and use, the need for a theoretical orientation on
ethnicity is especially in the foreground in this second way, and thus most keenly
felt. It is on account of this that some scholars dealing with ethnic and racial issues
have insisted that engagement with ethnic discourse and theories is imperative in
BS and should be made central. Bryon (2009, 174), for example, says that “… for
biblical scholars, discussions about race, ethnicity, blacks, Africans, or any other
‘Africanist presence’—or indeed any other cultural or ethnic subjectivities—should
not hover at the margins of the biblical scholar’s imagination but move to the
center of the interpretive process.” What this means then is that ethnic studies
would be an invariable requirement for African biblical scholars who wish to
address ethnic issues in Africa through this way of studying the Bible and through
this way of teaching the Bible in their BS curriculum. Fluency in ethnic theory and
studies for the study of the Bible is not a new phenomenon; Biblical scholars have

19 See also Buell’s (2001) earlier article on “ethnic reasoning” by Paul.

134 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

made forays into ethnic studies and used them variously as a means to understand
and make sense of some content of the Bible. 20

3.3 Addressing ethnicity through theologies of ethnicity

Theological reflection, and its attendant articulation or discourse, as distinct from
Bible reflection can be understood to take place when one ponders a theological
subject or ponders a subject theologically. In effect, theological discourse is
normally characterized by the intersection of issues about God (theological
subject)—his words and actions, agency, nature, character etc., and his world (the
subject discussed theologically)—human beings, nature and the environment,
societies/communities etc. The Bible then plays a part in such theological
reflection, but it is not considered by itself as the subject of study out of which the
theological reflection emanates. Indeed, Kelsey (1975, 122-134), 21 following
Toulmin’s (1963) analyses of the standard pattern of arguments, points out four
roles the Bible could play in theological reflection and articulation. The Bible may
be used to provide data when appealed to in a theological articulation. It may be
used as a warrant when invoked to move a theological discourse from its data to its
conclusion or claim. It could be used as a backing when it serves “to show that the
warrant is true” (Toulmin 1963, 144). Lastly, it may be used to approve of or rebut
the applicability of the warrant. Kelsey goes on to show that in a good number of
theological articulations, the usage of the Bible may be limited to only one or two
of the mentioned roles, leaving the other constituents of the theological discourse
to be filled by other sources such as philosophy, or other spheres in human culture
of thinking, validation, or theory. In consequence, the degree to which the content
of the Bible is the subject matter of theological reflection depends on the part it
plays (whether it is used for data, or as a warrant, or as a backing, or as an approval
or rebuttal) in theological reasoning and articulation.
Such an understanding of theological reflection and the role the Bible plays in it
casts into relief a third way in which ethnic issues can be addressed through the
study of the Bible, viz., through theological articulations on ethnicity or
“theologies of ethnicity” whereby ethnicity is the subject reflected on theologically
with the Bible playing some role in the reflection. I know of two articulated
theologies of ethnicity, one by Miroslav Volf (1996) and the other by Douglas
Sharpe (2002) although with respectively European and North American audiences
in view. To such work we may add “theologies of culture” whose subject area can
be integrally related to, intersect, and has much in common with, ethnic discourse.
Mission theologians such as Hesselgrave (1978) and Kraft (1979) have indirectly

20 See, for example, Hagedorn (2006), Coote (2006), Dulling (2005), Smith (1996), Stanley
(1996) and majority of the papers in Brett (1996) and in Sparks (1998).
21 See also his earlier “Appeals to Scripture” (Kelsey 1988).
NYENDE Addressing Ethnicity via Biblical Studies 135

and inadvertently come up with theologies of culture in their pursuit to understand

and advocate ways in which the gospel has been contextualized or should be
contextualized in various locales. These theologies of culture from mission
theologians have aided in understanding cultures theologically and thereby shaped
theological perceptions of culture, their functions, value and relativity. Such
theologies have contributed, and can contribute to an appreciation of the role of
ethnicity/culture in a society, to a diminution of ethnicity’s quasi-divine, superior,
and exclusive status, and to an openness to, and tolerance of, other ethnic groups
and culture. Comparable theologies of ethnicity/culture in Africa by African
biblical scholars (and theologians and mission theologians) are needed which could
act as fodder for BS courses which wish to address ethnicity through theological
reflections in which the Bible plays a role.
This third way of addressing ethnicity through the study of the Bible would
bring together the disciplines of BS and Theological Studies, a fact that would
resonate deeply with African biblical scholarship. This is because in African
theological institutions and her university Religious Departments and Faculties of
Theology, there is in practice no division between theological and biblical study.
NT studies in Africa, unlike in the Anglo-American scene, tend not to stand on
their own. As Gerald West (2000,4) observed, “African biblical studies is one
strand in the closely woven cord that is African Theology. The separation of
biblical studies from other theological disciplines, so common elsewhere, does not
happen in African Biblical Studies”. 22 Consequently, Theological Studies in
Africa are integral to Biblical studies; they mix and merge in various ways in their
common pursuit to speak to the African context in constructive and helpful ways.
This thesis is supported in a survey done not so recently by Maurier (in Okoye
1997) covering over 2,000 theological writings from Africans, which found that
“theological writing in Africa has been circumstantial, focused on particular
pastoral or moral problems” (Okoye 1997, 69). It is in these theological writings
that one tends to find the Bible studied, and not in studies exclusively on the Bible,
in order to relate it to African realities.

4. Conclusion
In this paper I have offered, in methodologically sensitive terms, ways of
addressing ethnic issues in Africa which are congruent with the goals of African
biblical scholarship. These proposals are not a detailed blue print on how African
biblical scholarship should address ethnicity through studies of the Bible, but rather
my attempts at a more modest goal of pointing out ways by which the essential
task of addressing ethnic issues in Africa through studies of the Bible could be

22 Here, it is worth noting G. West’s (1999) earlier article, “On the Eve of an African Biblical
Study”, which is a programmatic essay from him that is set out in the light of this reality.
136 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

profitably undertaken by African biblical scholarship in both its research and in its
BS teaching curriculum. Whatever debates and discussions what I have written
engenders, I can only hope that it will contribute to African biblical scholarship
attending very carefully to addressing ethnicity through studies of the Bible as an
integral part of its task, or at the very least prove useful to African biblical scholars
as a place to begin exploring the issues of addressing ethnicity in Africa through
the study of the Bible since the responsibility for this task is primarily our own.

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Jeremy Punt
Stellenbosch University

Galatians 3:28 has been influential over many years within the Christian church
as a prominent, charter text, often understood to proclaim gender equity and
hailed as a positive note in Paul’s otherwise problematic position on gender
matters. Building on earlier work on the intersections between postcolonial and
queer theoretical positions and stances, and their value for biblical
interpretation, Gal 3:28 is read in this contribution through a postcolonial, queer
perspective. As theoretical positions for both of which the body is central, a
postcolonial, queer reading of this text explores the ideological embeddedness
of body, sex and gender in this biblical text, while a renewed focus on the body
as expression of liminality foregrounds the interplay between body and power
in Gal 3:28.

Towards a Postcolonial Queer Approach to Biblical Texts

Over many years, Galatians 3:28 has been influential within the Christian church
as a prominent, charter text proclaiming gender equity, and hailed as a positive
note in what is often seen as Paul’s problematic position on gender matters.
Different critical theories have off late been employed and found helpful in dealing
with the interface between the Bible, and sex and gender but this paper will not
attempt to survey or analyse such positions. 2 Rather, the text will be investigated

1 Paper read at Paper read at the NTSSA section of a Joint Meeting of societies of biblical,
religion and theological studies at the University of Stellenbosch, 22-26 June 2009
2 On the one hand, feminist and gender-focussed readings of the Bible have revealed how in the
early socio-cultural contexts of the Bible where patriarchy was almost without exception firmly
entrenched, the embodied female was primarily culturally constructed as foil for the equally
constructed but dominant male figure. On the other hand, homosexual liberationist biblical
interpretations have insisted on gay and lesbian inclusion from a contemporary premise of the
naturalness of homosexuality and against claims that sex and sexual desire between men and
men, or between women and women, is neither natural nor good (cf. in Punt 2005). A gay
liberationist reading orients to justice, in relation to the “essence” of God and creation
(Isherwood and Stuart 1998, 29ff), positing homosexuality as a natural variation in human life,
Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 140-166
© New Testament Society of South Africa
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 141

within its socio-historical and literary contexts for its implications for gender, from
a postcolonial, queer approach; not with the intention to contribute to the
proliferation of hermeneutical methodologies but rather to ask about appropriate
epistemology and effective grammar. But queer theory, unlike gender or feminist
criticisms, 3 and in line with its challenge to essentialist notions of sexuality, allows
for a broader scope of sex and gender possibilities than the conventional
homosexual and heterosexual, masculine and feminine binaries. Indeed, combined
with a postcolonial optic, queer biblical criticism can move beyond inversionist
readings of biblical prohibitions against homoeroticism, and investigate the power
dynamics that such texts reveal along with those interests which gave rise to the
texts (cf. Schneider 2000b, 208).
In similar vein to queer theory, postcolonial studies insists on transgressing
disciplinary boundaries in advocating interdisciplinarity and a multicultural
curriculum, and because neither are reducible to a specific “field” or “core” within
such a field, they cannot be disconnected from previous disciplines such as, for
example, gender or ideological critical studies. Indeed, as cultural studies,
postcolonial and queer studies are deliberately not disciplinary but rather
inquisitive activities that question the inherent problems of disciplinary studies;
they “discipline the disciplines” 4 (Gugelberger 1994, 582). In biblical studies, a
postcolonial approach is often used to investigate imperialism and hegemony
operating in different forms and at different levels, and as critical theory used also
to engage the complex aftermath of colonialism, which is shaped by a history of
both repression and repudiation. As a strategy of reading that attempts to point out
what was missing in previous analyses, but also to rewrite and correct, postcolonial
biblical criticism represents a shift in focus, involving restoration and
transformation as well as exposé. Considering the New Testament, the imperial
context is seen as constitutive for the development and production of these texts,
but the broader and even more penetrating if more obfuscated patterns of gender
and sexual hegemony are equally important for postcolonial investigators.

and therefore for rereading biblical texts traditionally interpreted to forbid homoeroticism (cf.
Nissinen 1998, 123-28).
3 Tolerating a creative, productive tension between these theoretical positions and their different
insights is beneficial to understanding the intricate relationship(s) between gender, sex and
sexuality. The “non-causal and non-reductive” relationship between gender and sex should be
maintained, especially since “sexuality is regulated through the policing and the shaming of
gender” (Butler 1993, 238). As Stone (2005, 112) puts it, “In spite of the important reservations
expressed by queer theorists about the tendency to reduce questions of sexuality to questions of
gender, any absolute separation of sexuality and gender seems equally flawed”.
4 “The function of the postcolonial critic is to enable academia and disciplines to which we
belong to understand the implications of the content of the knowledge and the type of the
curriculum we impart, as well as draw attention to the absent, distorted and suppressed voices
in the courses we teach and the reading lists we produce” (Sugirtharajah 2002, 201).
142 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

The political dimensions of sex and gender—including matters of policing,

regulating and controlling lives and communities—are ultimately not dependant on
queer theory for their identification, as much as postcolonial theory is not the only
way to address hegemonic-political structures and elements in texts. However, both
theories are eminently suitable to assist in the analytical processes of textual
investigation, of probing the way in which gender and sex were constructed and
particularly the reasons for doing so, and for exploring both the political
assumptions, influences and effects, as well as the ambiguous character of identity
constructed in and influenced by the postcolonial position, challenging the reigning
identity politics often held in place by the powerful. 5 Such tensions boil underneath
the hermeneutical surface of a text like Gal 3:28—which has nevertheless often
stood at the centre of the debate about the role of women in early Christianity—and
a postcolonial, queer reading can provide alternative heuristic tools and options for
working with such a text.
The paper is not simply an effort to steer a safe course between theological and
political extremes, 6 clamouring for a good balance or a safe mean between
diverging positions based on a multitude of often strongly conflicting starting
points, frames of reference, methodological approaches and the like. To state it
positively, through the use of a postcolonial queer perspective, Gal 3:28—and its
third binary in particular—is read with attention to its socio-political and sexual
connotations, alert to notions of power and social control, and aligning the Pauline
ideological matrix of social order with that of gender and (what would today be
called) sexuality.

2. Wheeling and Dealing Gal 3:28

A postcolonial queer reading is particularly well suited as methodology with which
to approach Gal 3:28, since, although probably taken from an earlier baptismal
formula, it is in this verse that political, socio-cultural and gender/sexual aspects
meet so explicitly. Not so much that the text can be divided neatly into three
sections on race, class and gender (cf. Verhey 1984, 113-117), but rather because

5 Therefore, in postcolonial theory hybridity and mimicry assume high importance as analytical
categories, while queer theory questions gender, asking about its relationship to
performativity, and thus about the structured nature of identity and identity roles.
6 The intention of this contribution lies beyond some theo-political spin-doctoring of Paul,
queering him beyond recognition as a triumphant protector of gender equity all along; or, a
queerying call for the elision of Pauline (biblical) perspectives on gender, for ever condemning
it—and the apostle—to its (their) patriarchal contexts of origin. Moreover, the reading offered
here is not intent upon rehabilitating a biblical text in terms of sex and gender, nor primarily an
attempt to find liberating emphases regarding sex and gender in this or other texts, nor about
taking sides in the debate about the meaning and effect of Gal 3:28. For a succinct and valuable
overview of the main interpretative positions on Gal 3:28, cf. D’Angelo (2002, 149-152).
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 143

elements of the socio-cultural, political, gender and sexual criss-cross through the
three binaries addressed. Furthermore, a postcolonial queer reading provide the
necessary impetus and have the ability to move us beyond the dominance of the
reception history of the text and its expectations imposed upon the understanding
of this text.
A recent study of the reception of Gal 3:28 in the first four centuries of the
early Christian church, concluded that among the many different interpretations of
this text emerging in this period, three interpretations which would later become
popular are not found among such early readings (Hogan 2008, 2,193-195,201): it
was not interpreted as a charter text for an egalitarian programme; nor taken to
either suggest Christ as androgynous Saviour or the re-enactment of the original
androgynous human; nor developed as part of a baptismal liturgy. Rather, in this
early formative period of the church, the understanding of Gal 3:28 can best be
summarised by the following three positions: identification with Christ in baptism;
focussing on transformation through union with Christ, either in the present world
or the future dispensation, or both; or, as commentary on Gen 1:27 expanding on
the nature of the first human as divine likeness, or even of the nature of God. 7 In
short, all interpreters understood Gal 3:28 to be a statement about Christian
perfection, resolving differences in unity with Christ. 8 If nothing else, Gal 3:28
was evidently considered to be a text with considerable importance for the social
life of (early) Christian communities since its early times.

7 After the fourth century CE, Augustine’s views increasingly dominated the interpretation of this
verse (Hogan 2008, 12).
8 As Hogan (2008, 201) points out the understanding of perfection depended on interpreters’
stances: those following the New Prophecy saw in the saying legitimation for women’s
leadership roles in the church; those witnessing the martyrdom of women, that women could
become spiritual males; for the advocates of celibacy, the end of sexual intercourse; for those
holding to the superiority of Christianity to any philosophical school, the achievement of
knowledge and virtue; for Christians advocating becoming like God through Christ, it meant
that God’s nature was neither male nor female; for the adherents to eschatological restoration,
it referred to androgyny as sign of restored humans and resurrected humanity; and, for those
seeking to preserve empire and the church’s privilege in it, Gal 3:28 emphasised Christ’s
unifying power in the world.
144 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

2.1 Promoting Gal 3:28 as freedom charter for race, class, sex and gender
Of all the texts in the New Testament 9 that are invoked in the debate about the
promotion of equity in matters of race, class, and, sex and gender in the Bible, the
Pauline text of Gal 3:28 is often one of the first to be cited, with some scholars
seeing the text and Paul in general as providing a model for harmonious,
multicultural communities (so e.g. Barclay 1996, 197-214). Gal 3:28 has come to
function as a kind of charter text for issues connected with what broadly can be
called race or ethnic/religious; 10 class or legal status; 11 and, gender. Not only did
this text seem to indicate that such indicators of social position and privilege (and
accompanying division) in the first-century world were abolished in Christ, but
were seen to hold the promise of far-reaching transformation in relationships
among early Christians (Betz 1979, 190)—and in fact, to this day it is still often

9 Without neglecting texts that admits to the relatively greater role of and respect for women
than what would perhaps have been the case on the Greco-Roman context of the day,
consisting e.g. of the leadership roles of women in Pauline communities (e.g. Rom 16:1, 7);
the mutual exercising of power over each other’s body in a marital relationship (1 Cor 7:4);
notwithstanding the seeming prohibition of women voices in gatherings of the communities
of early Jesus followers, allowing the prophecy of women (1 Cor 11:2-11); and so on.
10 With regard to race, in Gal 3:28 Paul was connected with universalism even from a non-
confessional point of view, stressing a philosophical concern to identify the subject and the
universal through singularity (Badiou 2003). However, more recently others have argued that
Paul’s rhetoric—rather than trying to obliterate it—in fact relied on ethnicity (Buell 2001;
Buell and Hodge 2004; cf. Punt 2009b) In as much as Paul did not wish to erase ethnic
differences (Wan 2000, 126), he used the notion of ethnicity in a flexible and complex rather
than static and monolithic way, applying it in order to differentiate between gentiles and Jews
in Christ, and those who were not in Christ. For an interesting discussion of how Paul dealt
with racial or ethnic issues in Galatians, cf. Wan’s recent postcolonial commentary on
Galatians (Wan 2007, 246-264, esp. 260-261).
11 “So Gal 3:28 becomes the best expression of Paul’s idea of slavery and takes precedence over
all the metaphors” (Tsang 2005, 143). However, in the following chapters of Galatians, Paul
relied even stronger on somatic and gendered metaphors of slavery. In the end, the sustained
rhetoric of physical slavery throughout Galatians challenges Paul’s position in the letter that real
bondage is concerned with the spiritual enslavement, of will and mind and spirit (Glancy 2006,
30; cf. Bassler 2007, 72-73). The metaphorical use of slavery can be part of a discourse of
evasion (Briggs 2000, 110). And as argued elsewhere, if Paul did use these metaphorical
expressions regarding slavery in an informed way, it suggests a broader vision and insight in
the social institution of slavery that went beyond 1st century-sensibilities, and so begs the
question why he remained at best neutral about if not affirmative of slavery? And why, of all
metaphors, was slavery deemed the appropriate metaphor to describe Jesus’ followers’
relationship with him? (e.g. 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23), cf. Punt (2009a). A conceptual problem also
prevails: postulating an egalitarian community for male and female in terms of a narrow
definition of gender is possible, but removing the hierarchy of slavery requires a new
conceptualisation of freedom in its absence (Briggs 2003, 185).
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 145

interpreted accordingly. Without denying a certain inclusivist thrust in the text, 12

questions are however increasingly raised about its interpretation as primarily a
charter text of social equality.
This text’s inclusion in discussions on issues of gender and sexuality has
probably made the longest lasting impression. “According to many biblical
scholars, the implication is that Paul’s true ideal is one of equality between the
sexes but that he yields to cultural commonplaces and conventions because of
practical concerns or a desire not to force eschatological hopes onto a pre-
resurrection body” (Martin 1995, 229). 13 However, what could this have meant for
women converts becoming members of the community of Jesus followers,
particularly for their female bodies become one in the male Christ? Especially in
the Greco-Roman world where gender was one aspect of an all-encompassing
hierarchical understanding, of regulating society with strong, fixed conventions for
man and woman? And in a context where “sexuality” (to use a modern term) was
understood as a continuum of possibilities rather than a stark contrast of male and
female as polar opposites? Would Gal 3:28 therefore have meant that women in
their mystical union with Christ became empowered as males, moving toward the
male end of the spectrum? That being fully female in Christ, 14 would have meant
being as male as possible? And if so, what would this imply for issues of gender
and sexuality and for equality in this regard?

2.2 Rethinking the context, meaning and significance of Gal 3:28

Any appraisal of Gal 3:28, not only from a postcolonial queer perspective, require
a number of clarifying remarks. The joint presentation of the three sets of opposites
in the text is a reminder that the opposites and the hierarchy each set represents are

12 Clarke sees in Gal 3:28 a programmatic statement of Paul, shaping his theology of
inclusiveness, as borne out by Rom 16 (Clarke 2002, 103-125).
13 Without simply dismissing the efforts wishing to rehabilitate the Pauline perspective on women
by hoping to find a potentially dislodging section in the (otherwise) patriarchal Pauline corpus;
Christian feminist readers since the middle of the twentieth century saluted it as an
“emancipatory proclamation” for women (D’Angelo 2002, 150). To read Gal 3:28 as affirming a
meaning of no disadvantage attached to a specific social standing, fits in well with the larger
argument (3:1-4:31) that Gentiles are not (by un-circumcision) disadvantaged in Christ (cf.
D’Angelo 2002, 158; Hogan 2008, 45). Cf. recently Farisani (2006, 53): “Galatians 3:28 can
be employed to counter all forms of gender and ethnic discrimination”—Gal 3:28 becoming,
in the words of Gaventa (2000, 267), the “Magna Carta of Christian feminism”. For some
scholars, Gal 3:28 plays an even more fundamental role in Paul’s thought, so that e.g.
Campbell (2005, 95-111) identified Gal 3:28a as carrying his PPME (“pneumatologically
participatory martyrological eschatology”) model in nuce.
14 Bassler speculates whether the emphasis on being “in Christ” was not intricately involved
with a possible trend among women to an altered sense of self in a masculine direction
(Bassler 2007, 46).
146 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

not challenged, the validity of the different elements or the existence of the
contrasts of the binary relationships not questioned; they are simply combined or
joined “in Christ Jesus”. Paul provided neither a sustained challenge nor any fuller,
theological rationale that would challenge the identities or the boundaries on which
they relied. It is even more difficult to entertain the notion that Gal 3:28, as
formulaic utterance, should be read as indication of a direct opposition to the
hierarchies of the day and their exclusionary mechanisms, in the absence of any
similar notions in other Pauline letters for which ample opportunities existed (e.g. 1
Thess 4; 1 Cor 5-7; Phil 2; Phlm). Even graver problems dog the emancipatory,
egalitarian understanding of Gal 3:28.
Corporeality (bodiliness) and certainly gender were not a-historical essences
existing without cultural codes, especially since function defined form even more
in the first century CE than today (cf. Butler 1990, 139-140). The perceived
stability of human nature and distinctions as embodied in gender is highly
contestable, 15 and also the post-Enlightenment, Western notion that men and
women are constituted as two inherently different psycho-biological sexes. In the
first century CE, human nature was thought of as a hierarchically ordered unity,
served among others by the male and female distinction which provided the
framework for procreation, and through marriage and “family” (in the sense of
household) provided continuity and stability in the social order (Briggs 2003, 178).
Claiming that in Christ the sexed body is not erased but only its attached
“important culturally coded norms” (marriage; procreation; women’s activities in
the church) (Volf 1996, 184), presupposes the existence of bodies aloof from their
cultural codes; which would have been unthinkable in the first century, also in the
early church. 16
The question is whether the difficulty in coming to terms with a text like Gal
3:28, beyond a literalist affirmation of emancipatory value or an equally literalist
insistence upon its anachronistic uselessness for contemporary thought about social
issues, is not due to the use of inappropriate tools, that the “master’s tools” indeed
cannot bring the “master’s house down” as Audrey Lorde suggested? This situation
is illustrated in the recent suggestion by a well-known biblical scholar that Gal
3:28 can be the useful starting point for attempting morally committed readings
that does not amount to social moralism. 17 Citing the Protestant principle of

15 Although gender was implied and constructed through or inscribed by “sexuality”, the
ambiguities soon manifest when e.g. male slaves were perceived to be as vulnerable as female
slaves and women generally, because they could also be penetrated (cf. Briggs 2003, 180).
16 As the inclusion of e.g. the household codes, and the focus on order in the Corinthian
correspondence, etc, in the NT, attested! Cf. Kling (2004, 269-308) on the use of Gal 3:28 in
the debate about the ordination of women as clergy.
17 He adds, “People frequently do not recognize that the problems we face today were already
operative in the historical context of the past, even if under different conditions. Galatians 3:28
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 147

biblical texts being accessible to all, as well as the firm belief that the Bible has “a
spirit…that moves beyond all borders and sets people free”, he insists that
previously marginalised finding their voice in the Bible has to be heard; even in the
face of anti-Jewish, politically oppressive, patriarchal texts. “[I]t is in these
committed readings of the Bible that Protestant criticism of making the letter an
absolute is alive and well” (Theissen 2007, 147).
While such intent is praiseworthy, other concerns such as which interpretative
approaches to employ, the possible continuing value of approaches of past
generations, promoting both social responsibility and academic accountability, and
preventing anticipated results from determining the agenda, increasingly
complicate the matter. Without simply ignoring or discrediting earlier efforts
towards a socially engaged reading of biblical texts, it is necessary that other
hermeneutical methodologies and approaches could be considered for investigating
Gal 3:28.

3. Power and Liminality in Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28

In Galatians 3, Paul ends his argument on the redundancy of circumcision as
requirement for Gentile followers of Jesus to show their commitment to Jesus, with
the following claim: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or
free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And
if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the
promise (Gal 3:28-29; NRSV). 18 While the formulaic structure of Gal 3:28 and its
baptismal anthropology, suggests an existing tradition, whether dominical
(MacDonald 1987) or otherwise, any indication of a possible source is largely
absent from the early literature. 19 What is clear is that Paul reattributed this saying

demonstrates the point” (Theissen 2007, 147). Theissen claims that although historical-critical
exegesis’ insistence on understanding texts in their historical contexts is “justified”, it is
nevertheless also “unwarranted” when employed as response to “hermeneutics in the service of
Israel, liberation theology, or feminism”—approaches he calls “value-based hermeneutics”
(Theissen 2007, 147) .
18 In 1 Cor 12:12-13 another version of the formula is found, with especially v13 showing great
similarity with Gal 3:28.
19 Suffice it to note here the wide-ranging consensus that Gal 3:26-29 reflects (remnants of) a
baptismal liturgy, an opinion strengthened by the use of the verb to clothe (ἐνεδύσασθε) in
Gal 3:27, and given the baptismal practice where candidates stripped off their old clothes and
put on new ones after having been baptised in the nude. Clothes also served to symbolise
social status and hierarchy, but cannot be discussed here. Cf. D’Angelo (2002, 157-158).
Martin (2003) questions the consensus opinion, explaining the triple binaries according to the
exigencies of the covenant based on circumcision (Gen 17)—whether it is necessary to posit a
strong contrast between baptismal and covenantal elements as important situational factors
for Gal 3:28’s formulation remains a question.
148 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

for his own purposes. 20 While a connection in Gal 3:28c with Gen 1:27 can be
supposed, 21 and the notion of the restoration of God’s original image and likeness
in human beings through or in Jesus Christ 22 abound, tracing a provenance for the
saying as found in Gal 3:28 remains a mystery (Hogan 2008, 198-199). In denying
physical form and social position as criteria for sharing in the promises of God,
Paul seemingly insisted on a universal appearance, clothed in Christ, 23 and that all
may lay claim to the inheritance of the one to whom they now belong (cf. Hogan
2008, 1).
As to the practical meaning and social significance of this claim, it was soon
understood in the history of the church to reach beyond the issue of Gentile
circumcision, as the text was believed to present itself for a discussion of the
intersection of various interests and theories, given the three paired items it refers
to (cf. Hogan 2008). From a (post)modern vantage point, the juxtaposition of “no
Jew or Greek” especially if understood as ethnic indication, “no slave or free” as
socio-cultural-political connotation, and “no male or [and] female” as sex and
gender reference, as mentioned above, seems to invite the joint efforts of
postcolonial and queer theories. But it is not only in the combination of these three
binary pairs that the interlinking approach of postcolonial and queer theories would

20 The wording in Gal 3:28c differs from the first part, claiming that “there is no male and
female” (οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ) whereas in the other instances “that there is no Jew
(Judean) or Greek” (οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἥλλην), and “that there is no slave or free
person” (οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος). Various explanations have been offered for both
the different conjunction and the neuter adjectives (in stead of “man and woman”), such as
that it quotes from Gen 1:27 (ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς, e.g. Stendahl; the use of
ἄρσεν instead of the more common ἄρρεν is probably a further indication of Paul’s reliance
upon the LXX, cf. Hogan 2008, 29)—but cf. also Gen 5:2; 6:19, 20; 7:2, 3, 9, 15, 16; that it
honours the complementarity of human existence as male and female; that it does not deal
with a divisive contrast as is the case with the other two binaries; etc. Naming the sexes in the
neuter leads Betz (1979, 197) to conclude that it involves social differences between man and
woman as well as biological differences.
21 The ancient rabbis understood Gen 1:27-8 to refer to Adam being created intersexed, not just
male or female but both. This is the image of God in which humankind was created, and God
divided Adam into male and female only at a later stage. In the rabbinic tradition, but from a
later period, slaves and women were considered equal before God, notwithstanding their social
subordination to Jewish men (cf. Boucher 1969, 50-58).
22 Especially from the middle of the 4th century CE, among the Cappadocian fathers (Basil of
Caesarea; Gregory of Nyssa; and Gregory of Nazianus); whereas earlier Gal 3:28 was taken
to refer to e.g. the unity of the soul and absence of unruly passions (Clement of Alexandria)
or the ephemeral quality of physicality (Origen) (Hogan 2008, 198-199).
23 “In Christ” probably played in on the ancient notion of a strong physical relationship between
ancestors and descendants, namely that offspring were contained in the seed or womb or
elsewhere in their forebears (cf. Buell and Hodge 2004, 246)
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 149

make sense, but especially at a more theoretical level 24 —and, here the discussion
is limited to the third pair.

3.1 Gal 3:28—undoing or (re-)constructing gender?

Part of the challenge of coming to terms with Gal 3:28 and the social relationship
between men and women, is to do so within the first-century socio-historical
context. In the history of interpretation, emancipatory readings of Gal 3:28 at times
postulated that while the text implied gender equality in a general, abstract sense of
the word, it had practical implications. So for example, Gal 3:28 was interpreted to
require no less than the abolishment of the first-century, patriarchal marriage and
also the cessation of sexual relationships between male and female (Schüssler
Fiorenza 1992, 205-241, esp. 211). 25 Others opted for a less radical position,
seeing in Gal 3:28c rather the expression of bias towards celibacy, with marriage
not ruled out but privileging singleness as spiritually acceptable through separating
women’s position and role in society from its link with the family structure. 26
Whatever forms the criticism of marriage or support for celibacy would take,
such positions were hardly neutral in the first century CE. In a hierarchical,
patriarchal world, claims such as Gal 3:28 were dangerous and seditious, with a
possibly serious destabilising effect, 27 in the broader socio-political context. 28 This

24 Queer and postcolonial constitute the broader canvas for a variety of issues in biblical
scholarship, and both are increasingly developed and moulded amidst society’s broader debates
and anxieties. A step towards integrating postcolonial with queer biblical criticism would require
less effort for developing “culturally transcendent moral claims”, and more participation in the
debate “about the sources and authority of traditions that define social norms and human
identities in terms of sin, redemption, good, and evil, particularly as these categories are
expressed through gender and race” (Schneider 2000b, 209).
25 Initiating “an egalitarian ethos of oneness in Christ”, Gal 3:28 would then for first-century
followers of Jesus have meant the end of patriarchal marriage, according to Jewish and Roman
ideals a form of autocracy under the rule of the paterfamilias and in which women were always
dependent on a man, in the form of either the father or the husband. The undoing of gender
categories would free women from the patriarchal disadvantage, allowing them to pursue
alternative roles, also roles of leadership for which Rom 16:1-2 (Phoebe), Acts 18:2-4, 26; Rom
16:3; 1 Cor 16:19 (Prisca) and Rom 16:7 (Junia) are then, in the case of Paul, cited in evidence.
In contrast to the claim that naturalised differences gave rise to the institutionalisation of
patriarchal marriage, Boyarin argues the opposite, that patriarchal marriage produced
naturalised gender differences: “I am suggesting that wives are/were slaves, and their
liberation would have meant an end to marriage” (Boyarin 2004, 39).
26 Kinship and the master’s authority over slaves were the supports of the patriarchal system, as
much as kinship relations sustained perceptions of ethnic-religious superiority, and with these
challenged in Gal 3:28, women could “negotiate new social roles” and “claim leadership roles”
previously considered out of bounds for women (Briggs 1994, 219).
27 No parallels are found in the Pauline tradition, and neither 1 Cor 12:3 nor Col 3:11 contains
this line; cf. however Matt 19:12 and Mark 12:25 par; Rev 14:4f (Betz 1979, 197). Brooten
150 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

of course depended on how Paul’s claim was understood, given its possible range
of meaning, from merismus (meaning as inclusive of all human beings), to
denouncing a relationship of disadvantage, to disavowal of sexual intercourse and
marriage, even simultaneously incorporating elements of all of these functions
(D’Angelo 2002, 152). Notwithstanding the precise implications and specific intent
of the Gal 3:28c, the potential that gender may be subverted would have more than
raised societal eyebrows.
The sex and gender categories of Gal 3:28 derived from a context where, unlike
the modern notion of a horizontal continuum for gender and sexuality, a hierarchy
with a clear top and bottom positioned the male end of the spectrum as exercising a
natural dominance over the female end. 29 A body necessarily consisted of male and
female aspects, and the location of a particular person at a specific point on the
male-female axis depended on the relative strength of these aspects. Male or
female aspects could be adjusted or amplified through the impact of internal or
external forces, which would affect the position that a person is accorded on the
spectrum; so, movement on the gender scale was that of either sliding downward to
greater femininity or that of progressing to a greater degree of masculinity (Bassler
2007, 45). 30

reckons that Paul was aware of the powerful influence of such a claim, and therefore did not
repeat this contrast with the other two (Jews/Greeks; slaves/free) in 1 Cor 12:13 since the
implications of the erasure of gender distinctions was understood in that community (Brooten
1985, 77; for a contrasting position, cf. D’Angelo 2002, 155). Similarly, Roetzel (2003, 31)
argues that what Paul promised in Gal 3:28 became a reality in Corinthians where the
community strove for a transsexual, gender-neutral community—”and ironically Paul did not
find it to his liking”.
28 The valorisation of virginity has also been seen as a specific Christian contribution—along
with celibacy—to challenge the control of the Roman State: this impacted upon the sexual
body and its procreative and familial role in service of the imperial agenda. In the Gospels, a
similar challenge may lie behind the aversion to divorce, lack of emphasis on procreation,
warnings against family loyalties and the identification of female worth outside household
duties. These notions challenged Augustus’ legislation in 18 BCE and 9 CE against celibacy,
childlessness and adultery (Cahill 1995, 290-2; Horsley 2000, 89).
29 Masculinity was associated with strength, rationality, self-control, activity, and perfection,
and contrasted with weakness, sexuality and procreation, passion, passivity, and imperfection
which were associated with the feminine. Some ancient authors in any case aligned physical
categories of sex with moral and metaphysical ones: in contrast to the male, the female
denotes passive, weak, and distant from God. In his allegorical interpretation of Gen 1-3,
Philo also related Adam or the man to the mind and rationality and Eve or the woman to
sense-perception (cf. D’Angelo 2002, 155-156).
30 It has been suggested that a certain relaxation of the prevailing strict gender codes were due
to the impetus of early Christianity’s focus on eschatological expectation and divine
incarnation, influences deriving largely from apocalyptic and sapiential Judaism(s) and fusing
two horizons: an eschatological future and restored creation. Current social divisions expressed
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 151

Issues of sex and gender were, however, not restricted to household or even
social concerns, since in the first century CE the potential destabilisation of
hierarchical structures or (at least) notions of the body expands also to the socio-
political terrain, where the hierarchy of the body both informed and was inscribed
by imperial power (Martin 1995, xviii). 31 The understanding of the body as a social
economy meant that the parts and functions of the body were seen to reflect the
social hierarchy of society; conversely, cities or communities often thought of
themselves as bodies, reinforced by the portrayal of factions, rebellion or discord
as diseases affecting the body. The reciprocality of body and politics was
particularly clear in upper-class ideology which forced an analogy between status
and physical beauty, claiming a natural beauty and nobility for people of
aristocratic birth and upper-class status, while people of lower class were expected
to be misshapen and ugly (Martin 1995, 31-39).
The hierarchical ordering of bodies, sex and gender, and the reciprocality of
body and politics is an important starting point for understanding Gal 3:28 and its
subtle undoing of gender. Another, mostly neglected aspect, is accounting for the
influence of beliefs regarding the androgynous human being, on the text.

3.2 The androgynous notion underlying Gal 3:28 32

Three scenarios count in favour of interpreting Gal 3:28 as reflecting beliefs about
human androgyny. 33 Firstly, although no evidence of a general abolition of sexual
differences is found in Greco-Roman sources (Betz 1979, 197), a one-body or one-
sex model reigned in the ancient world. The single body perspective held that the
female sex was the same as the male sex, but in an inverted and a decidedly
inferior way: male and female were differences of degree and not of kind, different
permutations of a single sex, polar moments of an altogether perishable flesh. 34

in political, social and gender status and the like, were thereby invalidated if not disintegrated
(cf. Ruether 1996, 47-48).
31 And beyond the body and political unit of city, the body was seen to reflect the cosmos as
well; Martin therefore uses the concept of “microcosmic” body (Martin 1995, 15-21).
32 Some scholars have seen the influence of the androgynous elsewhere in Paul’s letters also; cf.
Roetzel (2003, 30-31) who argues that the Corinthian community in NT times aspired to
transsexual status reserved for heavenly beings, to a community with a vision of a gender-
neutral society.
33 “The ‘myth of the primal androgyne’—that is, an anthropology whereby souls are
ungendered and only the fallen body is divided into sexes—is thus a dominant structuring
metaphor of gender for the early church and for the Christian West as a whole” (Boyarin
2004, 36).
34 And in fact, male and female differences inscribed social perceptions, as much as the latter
informed the former differences! It is only in the post-Enlightenment Romantic, Victorian
and present day periods where the two sex-model (females are different and complementary
to males) is readily accepted, which created the context wherein complementarity has become
152 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Secondly, in earlier Greek philosophical and Jewish speculative thinking, the human
condition was idealised both in origin and ultimate destiny according to an
androgynous image. In Jewish speculation contemporary to the formation of the New
Testament, and especially in the incipient Gnostic tradition, Gen 1-3 35 was read not
only as two creation accounts but as a two-tiered process. 36 And thirdly, the
androgynous understanding of the ideal human is connected to Jewish apocalyptic.
Although some scholars have questioned whether Galatians shows signs of Paul’s
otherwise strong apocalyptic perspective, others (e.g. Martyn 1985; 2000) have
pointed out its pervasive presence in Galatians. In short, the formula quoted by Paul
in Gal 3:28 probably evoked the ancient notion that the eschatological human being
will be androgynous, since the male/female distinction will have been overcome. 37
However, the androgynous eschatological gender ideal and the annulment of
sexuality did not imply equality of the sexes; to the contrary, in the process of
reaching androgyny women had to become more and more male, implying

a sought after ideal (Laquer 1990; cf. Loughlin 2005). But in Paul’s time there was only the
one-body model: the female body of woman was but the inverse of the male body of the man.
35 Segal (2004, 431) thinks that Paul’s emphasis on the resurrected body as a spiritual body
(σῶμα πνευματικόν, 1 Cor 15:44) was “properly androgynous” and therefore related to the
body as it was created by God in Genesis. However, Stowers (1998, 304) reckons it is
unlikely that Paul interpreted Gen 1-3 to suggest original androgyny.
36 In the first creation the human being was created as image of God, incorporeal and androgynous,
while in the second creation which was corporeal, the division into male and female took place.
And while the corporeality with its materiality and sexual division was at times associated with
both the fall of the soul and the loss of authority over the spirit world (Exeg. Soul 122, 22-27),
salvation was seen as a return to the divine image, cultically enacted either in baptism or sexual
union in the bridal chamber (Gos. Phil. 70,5-22). “We thus see that from Philo and Paul through
late antiquity gender parity is founded on a dualist metaphysics and anthropology in which
freedom and equality are for pre-gendered, pre-social, disembodied souls and predicated on a
devaluing and disavowing of the body, usually, but not necessarily, combined with a
representation of the body itself as female” (Boyarin 2004, 38).
37 Boyarin (2004, 13-41) strongly favours an androgynous interpretation of Gal 3:28, insisting that
Paul’s primary motivation was the Hellenistic desire for the One—in theological terms, the
Spirit—beyond difference and hierarchy. However, in Boyarin’s reading of Paul the
androgynous understanding exacted a high price, namely forfeiting the body. The desire for the
One requires that flesh as site of dualisms (anatomical [penis/vagina], inscribed
[circumscribed/non-circumscribed] or ascribed [e.g. honour/shame]) be overcome. “I think that
the entire context of the passage in Galatians leads rather to the conclusion that what is being
referred to is an ecstatic experience, in which not social roles are modified but ontological
categories in the pneumatic moment of initiation” (Boyarin 2004, 24). The androgynous One
existed only outside the matrix of bodiliness, or alternatively, only momentarily, in the ecstasy
of baptismal experience. Transcending gender remained elusive, whether in the sense of
disembodied masculine universality or disavowed feminine corporeality, unlike Jews and
Greeks laying down ethnic identities and the erasure of slavery.
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 153

complementarity between the sexes but not equality 38 (Meeks 1974; Martin 1995,
229). In fact, “[t]he notion that life in this world is characterized by division,
whether of the multiplication of ideas in the phenomenal world, the division of the
sexes, or the separation of the individual soul from the One” was the common
reference point for the three documents 39 MacDonald (1987, 25) cites as sources of
the dominical saying underlying Gal 3:28. With divisions and boundaries
upholding the social world of the first century, the androgyne myth was not
antiquity’s opposition to androcentrism, but one manifestation of it (Martin 1995,
Acknowledging that the androgynous 40 model informed the “no male and
female” binary in Gal 3:28, should not be understood to extinguish male-female

38 In the Gospel of Thomas (logion 114), Mary’s position among the apostles is secured because
Jesus will “make her male, that she too may become a living spirit … For every women who
makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. In the Apocryphon of John
connections were made between femaleness and sexuality on the one hand, and between
being male and androgynous on the other hand, the latter pair connected also with knowledge
and identified as vehicles of salvation (Martin 1995, 231). “Valentinians claimed already to
have taken off the flesh and to have returned to a state of sexual unity. But this sexual unity is
not true androgyny; it is reconstituted masculinity; the female must become male” (MacDonald
1988, 284-285). Further on the masculinity of primitive androgyny cf. Martin (1995, 230-233;
cf. Swancutt 2003, esp. 214 n42).
39 According to Clem. Al. Strom. 3.13.92 the Gospel of the Egyptians contained the following
lines: “When Salome asked when the events about which she enquired would be known, the
Lord said: ‘When you tread upon the garment of shame, and when the two are one, and the
male with the female neither male nor female’”. A similar saying is found in the anonymous
sermon, 2 Clem. 12.2 “For the Lord himself, when asked by someone when his Kingdom will
come, said: ‘When the two are one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the
female neither male nor female. When the two have done these things the Kingdom of my
Father will come’”. In Ox. Pap. 655 and the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Thomas logion
37similar references to treading on a garment is found, and in Gos. Thom. 22b Jesus is quoted
as saying, inter alia: “When you make the two one, and you make the inside as the outside,
and the outside as the inside, and the above as below, and when you make the male with the
female into a single one, so that the male will not be male and the female not be female”
(MacDonald 1987, 17-23).
40 “Thus, the hypothesis can be proposed that this doctrine [androgynous Anthropos-Christ] lies
behind Gal 3:28, although definite proof is impossible for lack of sources” (Betz 1979, 199;
cf. 200). Betz also points to the importance of oneness in Paul’s argument: oneness of God
(3:20); of Christ (3:21); one apostle (1:1, 10-12); and one gospel (1:6-9; 2:7-8; 5:14).
D’Angelo cautions against a monolithic understanding of the image of the androgyne,
pointing to four different images: “the true hermaphrodite (almost always negative), the
double-bodied creature of Plato’s Symposium and the rabbinic tradition (a warrant for sexual
union), the syzygies or divine pairs of the gnostic economy, and ‘making the two one’ (the
spiritual ambition of wholeness)” (D’Angelo 2002, 151).
154 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

boundaries. 41 This becomes evident when the text is compared to the negative
reference in 1 Cor 6:9 to malakos, the effeminate or passive partner in a
homoerotic relationship. 42 Paul evidently assumed that men are to continue to act
in what was seen to be a masculine way (Balch 2003, 276). But on the other hand,
the one-sex biology carried within it the fear, particularly on the male side, to lose
balance and slip over to the female side; the ever-present danger was one where
woman could become man, or the ultimately disastrous position given the gender
perceptions of the first century CE, where a man became (like) a woman (cf.
Loughlin 2005, 15). So, rather than extinguishing sex and gender distinctions, Gal
3:28 maintained and even radicalised maleness, indicated by the baptism of also
the female into a divine image which was seen as perfect maleness 43 (cf. Fatum
1991, 56-137). Considering the patriarchal context, the odds were stacked against
men and what they stood to lose should they as men cross the line into what would
be considered feminine.

3.3 Sex and gender: Pauline ambiguities

While Paul is claimed to have destabilised sex and gender amidst overwhelmingly
strong hierarchies informing them, it seems that the male bias remained in Gal
3:28. While the Galatians letter is testimony to Paul’s attitude that no prejudice
should be attached to the Jew-Gentile distinction to the point of disavowing Jewish
physical descent from Abraham and affirming Gentile association with the

41 Contrary to Meeks (1974, 165-208) who argued that Gal 3:28 was a “performative utterance”
which effectively reinstated the baptised in the original androgynous image of God and
therefore allowed women into wider roles in Pauline communities, and Betz (1979, 195-196)
who claimed that biological distinctions were transcended through androgynous
transformation. Also contrary to Betz’s claim “Gal 3:28 is the first occurrence of a doctrine
openly propagating the abolition of sex distinctions”; he admits that the contemplation of the
equality of women was exceptional in the philosophical schools and Judaism of the time
(Betz 1979, 197).
42 Martin argues that malakos was a term used in Greco-Roman moral philosophy and popularly
for a man considered overly addicted to sex, not necessarily with male partners and could
even refer to a man given to sex exclusively with women. “The effeminate man is the ‘ladies’
man’, the one who becomes soft because of his addiction to sexual intercourse with women,
the ‘softer’ sex” (Martin 1995, 226). The point is about transgressing the line of what would
have been considered appropriate conduct for a man.
43 Fatum argues that Paul had a negative view of sexuality, that in “the annulment of sexuality
in Christ [is] the eschatological affirmation of life”, and with 1 Cor 11 as point of departure
insists that he considered celibacy as the only way for women to achieve equality, since being
no longer a woman or female, she can become a “son of God” (Fatum 1991, 56-137, esp. 79).
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 155

covenant promise of God (Gal 4:21-5:1), the situation is different with regard to
slavery and gender. 44
On the one hand, Pauline statements such as the one in Gal 3:28 with its
apparent subversive slant towards the radical patriarchal hierarchy of the first
century, and Paul’s approval of and even preference for, celibacy (recommended to
both men and women, e.g. 1 Cor 7:8, 25-35, 36-38, 39), would have challenged the
characterisation of human bodies according to the standard of reproduction.
However, it is implausible that Paul’s argument in Gal 3:28 can be construed to
have meant that the male-female polarity is a dichotomy which should ideally be
overcome (at least in this world and era), and unlikely that Paul advocated a non-
repressive, egalitarian and communitarian Christian identity and unity in which the
hierarchy between dominant and dominated is transformed into community (so
Kahl 2000, 37-49). 45
On the other hand, the social-symbolic ordering of bodies and related gender
hierarchies return in his treatment of rebellion against God with reference to
homoeroticism 46 (Rom 1:26-27), and his instructions regarding ecclesial
organisation and authority (1 Cor 11:1-16). In fact, referring to women as his co-
workers (e.g. Phoebe and others in Rom 16:1-16 and Phil 4:2-3) and to their
prayerful, prophesying presence in the church gatherings (1 Cor 11:5), clashes with
other texts—if not an interpolation—such as proscribing active verbal participation
by women in church (1 Cor 14:33b-36). Ambiguity 47 about gender roles in the

44 The claim that an emancipatory and egalitarian interpretation of Gal 3:28 recognises the nature
of early Christianity as pluriform movement and site of socio-political contestation, and is not
necessarily the romanticising of early Christianity (Briggs 2003, 188; Schüssler Fiorenza 1999,
145-148), perhaps goes too far beyond what the socio-historical and literary evidence allows.
45 Following Martyn’s position on the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου as “universal polarities that the
Greeks and others thought to be the basis of the cosmos, structuring reality in binary
oppositional pairs”, Kahl’s claim that Paul did not “proclaim the erasure of sexual (or any
other) difference, but the end of the social hierarchies and exclusions (re)produced by it”
(Kahl 2000, 44), may be too ideologically loaded in defence of the apostle.
46 In Rom 1:26-27 the neuter terms (male/female) are also used (D’Angelo 2002, 161). The
apparent naturalness of vaginal intercourse between men and women mirrored and
symbolically enacted the, what was considered natural, social hierarchy of men and women in
the first century (cf. e.g. Isherwood and Stuart 1998, 64; Vorster 2000, 118-22). In Philo’s
discussion of homoeroticism, one of his presuppositions regarding sexual intercourse is the
presence of two partners of which one will play an active and the other a passive role—
further implications are that passive males in homoerotic encounters become like women, and
are afflicted with the disease of effeminacy (cf. also Brooten 1985, 73).
47 Where the matter comes to a head, Paul sides with clear gender distinctions, such as insisting
upon distinctive dress codes and hair lengths (e.g. 1 Cor 11:14-15). The hierarchical
patriarchy of the first century required gender polarisation as grounding, and such polarity in
Paul’s letters had to be demonstrated in physical appearance, and therefore implied “female
subordination, in dress and in sexual intercourse” (Brooten (1985, 78-80).
156 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

earliest days of Christian communities may not have been altogether disconnected
from Paul’s ambivalent proclamations 48 (Brooten 1985, 78; cf. D’Angelo 2002,
The tensions in the Pauline corpus regarding sex and gender cannot be
dismissed since even where complementarity is considered or advocated (such as
in 1 Cor 7), the distinctions made and supposed in his letters about sex and gender
presuppose gender inequality based on female inferiority (cf. Brooten 1996, 13ff).
Unconvinced about the possible gender-transgressive implications of Gal 3:28, at
least not beyond a small, contained sphere of influence, it has been claimed that the
text did “not describe the state when neophytes are reaggregated into society, but
the undifferentiated, liminal state” (Neyrey 1990, 134). 49 Others are also not
particularly convinced about the affirmation of women in Gal 3:28. “On closer
inspection we see that what is actually assumed is that woman disappears, the rib
slots neatly back into place and the male image of God is left as he was first placed
on this earth” (Isherwood and Stuart 1998, 20). 50 Clearly issues of power need to
be considered.

3.4 Asserting power in sex- and gender matters?

Postcolonial and queer theory is not so much about bestowing normalcy on
queerness but rather queering of normalcy, which required the discussion above in
order to consider the effect and implications of the claims of Gal 3:28 within (and
beyond) the first century CE. Notwithstanding issues of enduring gender
hegemony and amidst tensions and ambiguities typical of the agonistic first-
century context from which Gal 3:28 derives, the text is remarkable for its
disavowal of the given, the normal, the conventional—specifically also by
claiming no male and female in Christ. In fact, the stereotypical is maintained only
through avoiding a challenge to its claimed “un-difference”, and once the

48 As one commentator admits: “While Paul admits the radical implications in Galatians, he has
obviously changed his positions in 1 Corinthians, and it may not be accidental that the whole
matter is dropped in Romans” (Betz 1979, 200).
49 Especially if Philo’s (c. 20 BCE—c 50 CE) approach to Gen 1:27 is followed in interpreting
Gal 3:28, that is where male and female are read as metaphors for the rational versus the
sensual or passionate parts of the person (cf. Dei Opificio Mundi 165), so that the image of
God was understood as an immaterial ideal, and “no male and female” as spiritual existence
rather than corporeal and distinguished by bodily characteristics such as sexual difference (cf.
Hogan 2008, 29).
50 The use of the masculine rather than neuter form of “one” (εἷς and not ἕν) in Gal 3:28d has
also be seen by some to be indicative of both male and female being taken up in the male (e.g.
Bassler 2007, 45); however, Polaski explains that the choice for masculine could have been to
stress the body as human rather than entity or thing, and so actually celebrating diversity,
mutuality and interdependence (Polaski 2005, 71).
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 157

ideological, ingrained thought-patterns on which it is built are exposed, it is no

longer perceived as “natural” and “normal”, “common-sense” and “traditional” but
as constructed and imbued with power-interests. 51
Paul’s formulation in Gal 3:28 can, in its ambivalence, be described as forward
looking, 52 along the lines of Jesus’ implicit acknowledgement (Matt 22:29) of
women’s admission to the resurrected life (Loughlin 2005, 16). The possible denial
of marriage in Gal 3:28 is more ambiguous: absolving the restrictive conventions
of first century-marriage, or denying the materiality and corporeality of Jewish
perceptions of the afterlife, or challenging sex and gender divides? Should the
claim that through his reflections on the body of Christ—and maybe an
androgynous body 53 —male and female have become one body for Paul (Butting
2000, 87), be maintained, also in view of his disavowal of marriage? Or is it proper
to see his emphasis on being one in Christ as rather a disavowal of sex and gender,
with neither patriarchal marriage or male-female sexual relationships any longer
“being constitutive of the new community in Christ” (Schüssler Fiorenza 1992,
211)? Was Gal 3:28 Paul’s coup against first-century systems that regulated sex
and gender in society, replacing it with a version of his own preference, informed
by traditions such as the androgynous human being?
Amidst the tensions in Paul’s letters regarding sex and gender, and the power
relations in which these are set, Gal 3:28 initiated a transgression of gender, sexual
and socio-political boundaries as they were constructed in the first century. “[Paul]
is opening the way for a blurring of gender roles that could alter social structures”
(Brooten 1985, 77). Maybe unwittingly, Paul started what would become typical in
the early and later Christian church (and in even modernist Western culture to
some extent), namely the use of certain texts or traditions for the design of the
social programme of the human body, complete with a sense of individual bodily

51 This is especially true in a high context society such as that of the first century world. Such
thinking accepts the challenges of constructs such as the notion of woman as “living gift or
donation of herself to the fulfilment of all others’ desires and needs—i e, to make everyone else
happy”, and recognises it as “an originary myth that is still in need of deconstruction” (Davies
1994, 28).
52 Especially in a context where it was often thought that a woman should become like a man if
she was to be saved, since man alone was made in the image of God, and woman in the image
of man—ideas still around in the 3rd century CE among such as Tertullian (Loughlin 2005,
53 Betz (1979, 197) refers to the far-reaching influence of the Orphic doctrine that Zeus was both
male and female in Hellenistic times, and the third sex mentioned in Plato’s Symposium (189
D—193 D) which was androgynous and whose separation into two provided the mythical
explanation for the attraction between the sexes. Redemption in Philo entailed overcoming
sexual distinction, but he did not invoke the Anthropos-myth in this regard.
158 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

identity, difference 54 and relations with (the bodies of) other people. 55 While it is
difficult to maintain a position that Paul sought equality for the female and women
in Gal 3:28, it is equally difficult to deny the destabilising effect of Paul’s gender-
bending claim 56 —but what would the meaning and significance of such a claim

4. Re-reading Gal 3:28

The consensus opinion holds that Gal 3:28 reflects some liturgical, probably
baptismal use; and, at least until recently, that its discursive power would have
challenged the symbolic world of its audience of believers through its
proclamation, amongst other on the terrain of sex and gender. What remains within
the confines of this paper, is to indicate a more appropriate engagement with and
understanding of the text, using a postcolonial queer approach. It has been
suggested that while Paul’s consistent concern to address the Jew-Gentile binary
should be acknowledged, 57 his neglect of gender (and slavery) should be admitted
but also be picked up by champions of these causes today (Polaski 2005, 74-75). In
this, a postcolonial queer approach, with its focus on identity and difference as
constituent elements in the gender and power relationship, can further assist in
making constructive inroads.

54 But dealing with difference involves more than acknowledging lesbitransgay, or queer,
people and includes the recognition of difference in solidarity. Difference is celebrated, in
contrast with most of Western theology and society which views difference as problematic,
addressing it through created binaries which privileges certain understandings and reject
others, cf. Stuart et al (1997, 3).
55 Identity was ascribed to the embodied human being within a social system of differences
(Foucault), with the body mapped and sexuality colonised through emphasising difference in the
constructs of gender and sexuality, as determined by binary opposites. “[T]he discursive
practices of a community function to persuade the body to subject itself to social control. As
such the discursive body functions as a site of political meaning” (Vorster 2000, 111).
56 Except, of course, with a consistent androgynous interpretation which cannot contemplate the
destabilisation of gender since the dualism of flesh and spirit does not constitute gender
status, but “simply reinstate the metaphysics of substance, the split between Universal Mind
and Disavowed Body” (Boyarin 2004, 38).
57 While no direct criticism of patriarchal culture emerged from Paul, his urging to avoid sexual
exploitative behaviour (porneia) and for men to control their bodies (or, manage their “tools”,
1 Th 4:3-4), did imply some reigning in of the phallus (cf. Elliott 1994, 203).
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 159

4.1 Gender and power: Difference and liminality

Difference is a central feature in postcolonial theory, and gender and sexual
difference 58 also lie at the root of queer theory (Schneider 2000a, 3-4). In a classic
paradox, the colonial subject and the heterosexual male subject needs an Other,
because they are constituted in the constant disavowal of an Other (Holden and
Ruppel 2003, xii). 59 Building on this, queer theory is disruptive and transgressive,
since it produces difference through questioning the conventional while postulating
other differences. Queer theory’s disruption of so-called stable and normal and thus
normative sexual identities include categories such as male and female; in the end,
it is not only the disruption of (sexual) identity that is the hallmark of queer theory
(Schneider 2000a, 6), but with that, the celebration of (sexual) difference.
The focus on difference provides an important perspective in the patriarchal
context(s) of the first century CE where gender was predisposed to a masculine
dominance, which also regulated sex (i e prescribing what constitutes masculinity
and femininity) and sexuality (i e determining what can be considered appropriate
sexual desire and activity, including notions such as what today would be called
sexual orientation and preference). 60 It therefore goes without saying that “The
male-female gender system in Paul’s writings cannot be extricated from the
ideology of hierarchy and dualism in which it is embedded” (Kittredge 2005, 266).
In Paul’s move towards subversion of boundaries and divisions in Gal 3:28 (cf.
Bassler 2007, 74), he subverted hierarchical positions. Both Jews and Greeks
would have assented to the notion that the existence of binary opposites constituted
the dependable structure of the cosmos, which Paul, worryingly, appears to
destabilize “in Christ”, 61 as liminal position.
However, not all women and slaves in the early communities of Jesus followers
would necessarily have heard an egalitarian note in the baptismal formula of Gal
3:28 (cf. Briggs 2003, 187). As is often found in situations of subordination and

58 “What queer theory principally provides is an intellectual framework for treating sexuality as a
meaningful site of difference that could illuminate texts and traditions in helpful if sometimes
unsettling ways” (Schneider 2000b, 212). And, “[q]ueerness does not have to mean
incommensurate difference, but in current debates it does tend to mean that” (Schneider
2000a, 11).
59 “Just as the colonized in the colonial narrative must be both acknowledged and disavowed, they
must be seen as similar and yet also different, so the homosexual must be excluded within
heterosexual masculinity” (Holden and Ruppel 2003, xii).
60 To this day, of course, gender is instrumental in defining difference and exercising control:
“Gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between
the sexes, and gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power” (Haraway 1991,
61 “Implied here, but not yet stated, is the new creation Christ is bringing about in the believing
community and in the world” (Polaski 2005, 67).
160 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

inequality, the perceived sense of stability and security, of relative freedom and
even “privilege” in comparison to the position of others and as determined by the
hierarchical structures keeping such systems in place, are often reason enough for
those getting the short end of the stick to maintain the status quo. When resistance
against hierarchy and patriarchy manifests in calls for amelioration of harsh aspects
of such systems, it does little more than reinforce the system as system. And
therefore, when it comes to gender and power, the question about identity cannot
be avoided.

4.2. Gender, power and (new) identity

There is a reciprocal relationship between social practices of men and women and
social perceptions of gender. “Images of gender both reflect the social practices of
men and women and play a role in shaping the gendered character of social reality”
(King 1988, x). In Galatians where Paul and the community’s identity is of primary
concern to the apostle, the framing of gender in terms (and the person) of Christ 62
underlines that male and female are both to derive their content from Christ, as
became clear in Paul’s allegorical reformatting of the Abraham narratives (Gal
4:21-5:1). 63 The privileged status offered to all is that of a new identity, in Christ,
namely—and true to the time—the privilege to become sons of God (Bassler 2007,
Queering a text like Gal 3:28 is to expose its underlying influences and to show
how, in and through its composition and redaction, specific patterns and
configurations of sex and gender were both assumed and created, and therefore
both privileged and promoted: centre and periphery is established, regulated and
controlled. In their linking up with postmodern thinking and politics, postcolonial
and queer theory rely to a great extent on the conflict between centre and
periphery, as both a divisive or disturbing as well as creative tension (cf. Seidman
in Hawley 2001, 4). This explains their concern about the (contemporary) politics
of identity, regarding the categories and institutions, the knowledge-discourses and
the power plays by means of which social dynamics and people are structured and

62 And from the 2nd century, “becoming male was for women a plausible, desired, and
occasionally necessary part of Christian self-definition”, as evidenced in Gosp. Thom. 144
(cf. above; Bassler 2007, 46).
63 Paul’s attempts in Galatians to define a new identity for the followers of Jesus, separate from
a Jewish identity, rested largely on paternity. As Paul’s torturous allegory in Gal 4:21-5:1
indicated, women were not only located in male-defined structures of kinship but since
women’s sexuality and reproduction mediated male paternity, women and women’s sexuality
were potentially anomalous (to male-defined structures) and therefore had to be strictly
controlled (Briggs 1994, 230-231).
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 161

regulated (Punt 2005). 64 Queer theory acknowledges the embeddedness of bodies

in politics and power (Foucault), and whereas the politically embedded body 65
often tends to be concealed by moral pretentiousness (LaFleur 1998, 45), Butler
and others have also made compelling arguments for the social constructivist
nature of gender and sex, 66 as well as the performativity of gender 67 which re-
conceptualised human agency, in questioning perceived human autonomy.
The traditional interpretation that Gal 3:28 speaks in parallel manner of three
differences among human beings, ethnicity, class, and gender, has neglected that it
primarily addressed the conflict generated by the socio-political setting of the day.
Rather than understanding the three pairs as resolved in ontological sameness (in
the case of gender, in e.g. androgyny) or in equality, whether spiritual, social or
both, becoming one is Christ was probably in the first place about the overcoming
of conflict. An analogy was established between the communal strife of Jew and
Greek, and the relationships of conflict inherent to the patriarchal system’s two
sustaining pillars in the form of gender and slavery. The baptismal formula
presented in Gal 3:28 proclaimed “oneness” in Christ as the overcoming of strife,
both locally (in the community) and society at large (civic). 68 All three elements,
Jew, slave and woman represented elements that could be seen as potentially

64 In a different way, Hawley (2001:4) refers to how the “destabilizing of identity politics”
implied by queer theory echoes “the challenge postcolonial theory offers to … Westerners”.
65 “The body is experienced as a source and site of knowledge whose ‘voice’ can break through
the epistemology of oppression” (Isherwood and Stuart 1998, 96).
66 The complexity of human sexuality, also pertaining to physiological make-up, is important, but
following queer theory, gender is a constructed and not an essentialist category to be read off
biological or body parts: both sex and gender are socially constructed; not even sex is simply
biologically determined.
67 “Hence, as a strategy of survival within compulsory systems, gender is a performance with
clearly punitive consequences” and “Gender ought not to be construed as a stable identity or
locus of agency from which various acts follow; rather, gender is an identity tenuously
constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts” (Butler
1990, 139-40). Performativity is not to be confused with performance, since it is about
identity “performatively articulated as the effect of regulatory regimes—a constraint queer
theory attempts to transgress, subvert, and disrupt” (Hawley 2001, 3). Failure to deal with the
latter, raises questions about Butler’s conception of gender to the effect that it destabilises
gender without providing a generic, stable identity (cf. Castelli 2005, 173).
68 An interpretation thought to be borne out by another version of a similar sounding baptismal
formula in 1 Cor 12:13, in a chapter dealing with dissension in the community about different
gifts and activities (Briggs 2003, 183)—although the gender pair is absent from the formula in 1
Cor 12. Interestingly, in 1 Cor 12:23 Paul seemed to implicitly acknowledge that hierarchical
orders created the potential for resentment and resistance, and that hierarchies maintained or
established in Christ’s name need to ensure that even the most subordinated would be accorded a
measure of respect and honour (cf. Briggs 2003, 183). Already in the early Christian church, Gal
3:28 were often interpreted in conjunction with 1 Cor 12:13 and Col 3:11 (cf. Hogan 2008).
162 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

disloyal, to city or empire, to masters, and to husbands. By queering—at least to

some extent—the traditional sources of identity namely city and household, Paul
suggests by using the baptismal formula in Gal 3:28 that the new source of identity
and thus harmony in the community is the male body of Christ (cf. Briggs 2003,
182-183; Kwok 2005, 86).

According to our reading, Paul did not invest Gal 3:28 with emancipatory or
egalitarian meaning; in fact, constantly re-invoking the three binaries throughout
Galatians and elsewhere suggests that he largely maintained the practices and
values that were accepted as normal in his culture. 69 Even a distinction between his
intentions 70 and achievements falls short of positing Paul as a first-century social
activist of some sort. So, once it is acknowledged that “Paul clearly does not
believe that women are equal” (to men) (Martin 1995, 232), is it the end of the road
for a liberatory or even constructive reading of Gal 3:28, and of the rest of Paul’s
Not necessarily, at least not from a postcolonial queer approach! The
preponderance of metaphors related to body, sex and gender and kinship in the
New Testament makes postcolonial and queer theories viable options for the
analysis of biblical texts. It is as and through bodies as sexual and gendered
entities, within communities and societal systems at large, that the biblical texts are
constituted, and today, read and interpreted. “The Bible writes our flesh, its
meanings and possibilities” (Loughlin 2005, 10). It is particularly at the underside
of identity, with people finding themselves in liminal positions, that these theories
are useful. Postcolonial and queer theories are useful approaches for coming to
terms with the relationship between liminality—also in its sexed and gender
format—and the Bible.
In the case of Gal 3:28, where a postcolonial queer approach provides for a new
reading of the text because these approaches allow for a different perspective on
texts, both for their first-century contexts (coming clean about issues at hand) and
modern-day settings (ability to think through these texts, not as blueprints but as
prototypes), and their possible meaning, reach and impact. As so often in biblical

69 And while subsequent androcentric and patriarchal texts silenced the voices of those who
through aligning themselves with the baptismal formula of Gal 3:28’s subversion of identities
assigned by the contemporary hierarchical order, they could have performed new identities in
an egalitarian and emancipatory early community of Jesus followers (cf. Briggs 2003, 188).
70 “Gal 3:27-28 is not a verbal window through which one sees the sexual egalitarianism of pre-
Pauline tradition. Instead, it is a verbal prism refracting the theology of Paul’s opponents into an
original reformulation. ‘There is no male and female’ is Paul’s vision of sexual equality in his
communities as they should be, not a witness to conditions in these communities as they were in
fact” (MacDonald 1987, 16; cf. Boyarin 2004, 40).
PUNT Power and Liminality, Sex and Gender, and Gal 3:28 163

studies, different (hermeneutical) tools will not only render certain effects and
achievements possible but will also after link up with existing ones, moving
beyond, exploring new ground. A postcolonial queer approach unwrestles Gal 3:28
from its sentimentalist paradigm, showing upon tensions and strains, but then also
allows for exploring the potential of Gal 3:28 anew, rethinking ancient setting but
also thinking about its potential for new, modern contexts. Postcolonial queer
biblical criticism can contribute to emancipatory theologies, 71 and their concern for
justice as the direction of God who is unfolding through the bodies of individuals,
and in the lives of the marginalised in particular.

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BERNETT, M., Der Kaiserkult in Judäa unter den Herodiern und Römern: Untersuchungen
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Siebeck, 2007. Hardback. ISBN 978-3-16-148446-9. Pp. xiii + 441.

Die vorliegende Untersuchung geht auf eine Habilitationsschrift an der Universität München
zurück (2002). Die Althistorikerin Monika Bernett behandelt darin den Kaiserkult im
herodisch-röm. Judäa, „wie ihn Herodes bereits sehr früh und mit großem Aufwand in
seinem Reich etabliert hat und wie er in nachfolgender Zeit bis 66 n. Chr. fortgeführt,
erweitert und aktualisiert wurde” (v). In Reaktion auf die Einführung und Pflege des Kaiser-
kultes im „Lande Israel” sind neue, teils widersprüchliche Konzepte jüdischer politischer
Kultur und Theologie entstanden. Nach B. gehören diese Prozesse zur politischen und
intellektuellen Vorgeschichte des ersten jüdischen Krieges und haben seinen Ausbruch
begünstigt. Diese These der Verfasserin ist von Bedeutung, da anderweitig der Ausbruch des
Krieges und seine Vorgeschichte lediglich mit der schlechten Amtsführung mehrerer
römischer Prokuratoren in Verbindung gebracht werden.
In der Einführung (1-26) schildert B. den Kaiserkult in Judäa in der bisherigen
Forschung, umreißt die Konsequenzen der neueren Kaiserkultforschung für das Verständnis
des Kaiserkults speziell in Judäa, erläutert die mit Josephus als wichtigster Quelle gegebene
Problematik und schildert die mit der Bezeichnung „Judäa” gegebene politische Geographie
und Nomenklatur.
Kapitel zwei schildert das Verhältnis von Herodes und Kaiserkult (28-51). Es beginnt
mit dem Problem der Legitimität der Herrschaft des Herodes und der Rolle des Kaiserkults
angesichts dieser Problematik (das Problem legitimer Herrschaft über das Volk Israel und
die Legitimierung politischer Herrschaft durch die Hasmonäer). Der ersten Phase der
Herrschaftslegitimierung des Herodes durch die Verbindung mit der hasmonäischen
Dynastie (40/37-30 v. Chr.) folgte eine neue Legitimierungsstrategie nach Actium, die
einerseits zum Bruch mit den Hasmonäern führte: Herodes beseitigte potentielle Rivalen, da
die Machtansprüche der beiden Familien nicht miteinander zu vereinbaren waren und die
Hasmonäer eine Chance sahen, sich gegen Herodes durchzusetzen. Andrerseits beinhaltete
die Strategie die Ausweitung der Wohltaten des Herodes als Machterhalt und Legitimation:
Seit dieser Zeit agierte Herodes in einem völlig neuen jüdischen Herrschaftsstil. Er
generalisierte das Handlungs- und Beziehungsfeld hellenistischer Euergesie und bezog
gleichermaßen den Kaiser, die paganen und jüd. Untertanen seines Reiches sowie Juden und
Nicht-Juden außerhalb Judäas mit ein. Bei dem sich im griech. Osten rasch verbreitenden
Kult für den „Kaiser” und „Wohltäter” Caesar Augustus stand Herodes mit an der Spitze
derer, die sich in Form und Ausmaß der Ehrungen überboten” (352f). Dabei war der Kult
„keine bloße Schmeichelei oder Zeichen von Herodes’ Unterwürfigkeit gegenüber dem röm.
Kaiser, wie so oft behauptet wird. Genauso wenig war er ein Mittel, das Reich zu
hellenisieren und die jüd. Kultur zurückzudrängen” (353). Das Engagement des Herodes für
den Kaiserkult war Ausdruck eines Beziehungsgeflechts, das mehrere Funktionen
miteinander vereinte: „eine öffentliche Antwort auf ‚Wohltaten’ des princeps, das

Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 167-203

© New Testament Society of South Africa
168 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Bekanntmachen der Gunst, in der man stand, sowie das Agieren in der geachteten Rolle des
herrscherlichen Euergeten, der die Freundschaft und das Wohlwollen der Beschenkten
erwarten darf” (353).
Ferner beschreibt B. detailliert die etappenweise Etablierung des Kaiserkults im Reich
des Herodes (52-170). Die Einrichtung der ersten Kaisareia (Spiele in vierjährigem Abstand
zu Ehren des Kaisers) in Jerusalem im Jahr 28 v. Chr. diente zur Repräsentation des
siegreichen C. Caesar als „Wohltäter” des Herodes. Dabei dürfte der geplante Agon „der
erste gewesen sein, der in Judäa seit Beginn des Hellenismus je stattgefunden hatte—
vermutlich der erste in der südlichen Levante überhaupt” (52). Die Stadtgründung und
Kultstiftung in Sebaste 27 v. Chr. war Herodes’ Reaktion auf die neue Stellung C. Caesars
in Rom als princeps und Augustus (66-98; detaillierte Beschreibung der antiken Stadt und
der archäologischen Funde). Die Stadtgründung und Kultstiftung in Caesarea (Maritima) 23
v. Chr. dürfte auf Livias Integration in den Kult für Augustus zurückzuführen sein (98-121,
u. a. mit Beschreibung des Theaters und des Circus, die Austragungsort der gestifteten
Spiele waren sowie Herodes als Euerget im Zeitalter von Kaiserherrschaft und Kaiserkult,
121-26). Die Kultstiftung beim Paneion am Fuße des Hermon (29 v. Chr.) deutet B. als eine
Option des Herodes auf die Zukunft eines Reiches zwischen Tyros und Damaskos, das unter
seinem Sohn Philippus Realität wurde. Auch diese Kultstiftung folgte auf eine Wohltat des
Augustus, nämlich die Erweiterung des Herrschaftsgebietes des Herodes.
Neben und nach diesen Kultstiftungen versuchte Herodes einen Ausgleich bzw. eine
Balance, indem er als Euerget für das jüdische Volk und seinen Gott auftrat (146-70). B.
schildert die Rolle der Euergesie im jüd. Herrschaftsverständnis vor Herodes und bei
Herodes und schließt:
Unter den an die Juden Judäas adressierten Baustiftungen befinden sich drei religiöse
Bauprojekte: die grandiose, höchst aufwendige Erweiterung und Ausstattung des
Jerusalemer Tempels und seines Temenos sowie der monumentale Ausbau des
Patriarchenkultes in Hebron und Mamre. Da Herodes auch drei Kultstätten für Augustus
in seinem Reich errichtet hat und der Ausbau des Jerusalemer Tempels, Mamres und
Hebrons erst nach den Kultstiftungen für Herodes begonnen wurde, kann man sich des
Eindrucks kaum erwehren, dass das Engagement im Kaiserkult das öffentliche
Bekenntnis zum jüdischen Glauben nach sich zog (152).
B. behandelt ferner weitere von Herodes den Juden geschuldete euergetische Akte
(außerhalb von Baustiftungen), die einen neuen jüd. Herrschaftsstil im Zeichen des
Ausgleichs andeuten: “Mit dieser speziell jüd. Euergesie wollte Herodes offenbar seine
Toraverstöße, insbesondere im Bereich des Kaiserkults, lindern, seine ungebrochene
Loyalität zum Judentum öffentlich demonstrieren und seinem Gott vor allen Augen höchste
Ehre erweisen” (353). Dabei ist zu beachten, dass die Platzierung der Kaiserkultstiftungen
außerhalb des vorhasmonäischen Kerngebietes dazu beitragen sollte, den Respekt des
Königs vor dem Geltungsanspruch der Tora in Jerusalem und Umgebung auszudrücken. B.
beleuchtet jeweils die Reaktionen des Volkes bzw. verschiedener jüd. Gruppen sowohl auf
das Engagement des Herodes im Kaiserkult als auch für die Juden.
Das dritte Kapitel untersucht den Kaiserkult als Teil des politischen Erbes von Herodes,
das Archelaos, Antipas, Philippus und die Römer von 4. v. Chr. bis 41 n. Chr. antraten (171-
63). Die politische Neuordnung Judäas durch Augustus erwies sich als eine problematische
Verteilung von Wohltaten angesichts von Aufruhr und dynastischem Streit. Die Herrschaft

des Archelaos (Ethnarch über Judäa, 4 v. Chr.—6 n. Chr.) war bestimmt von der Negation
von Kaiserkult und jüdischer Euergesie bei gleichzeitiger Rückkehr zur übertriebenen
Selbstdarstellung als Herrscher (176-88). Der Kaiserkult im röm. verwalteten Judäa (6-41 n.
Chr.) war bestimmt von räumlicher Trennung, symbolischen Akten, und ausgehandelten
Kompromissen (189-216; hier auch Diskussion der Rolle des Kaiserkultes bei der
Formierung des antiröm. Widerstands 6 n. Chr., die Kaiseropfer im Jerusalemer Tempelkult,
Pontius Pilatus und die Standartenepisode, die Schildepisode, seine Münzprägungen sowie
die Errichtung eines Tiberieums durch Pilatus in Caesarea). Bei Antipas (Tetrarch über
Galiläa und Peräa, 4 v.-39 n. Chr.) findet sich ein Kaiserkult ohne Bild und Opfer als Teil
einer maßvollen Akkulturationspolitik (217-39; die Gründung von Sepphoris als mögliche
Ehrung für Caesar, die Gründungen von Livias und Tiberias, antagonistische Anlagen und
Kaiserspiele in Tiberias, die Besonderheiten der Kaiserkultpolitik des Antipas, die jedoch
unter den neuen Bedingungen der Herrschaft Caligulas scheiterten). Philippos, Tetrarch über
Herodes’ Anteil aus dem Ituräerreich (4 v. Chr.—33 n. Chr.), führte dagegen das
strukturierende Kaiserkultkonzept seines Vaters fort (239-63; das Philippos-Bild des
Josephus, die Gründung von Caesarea Philippi als Hauptstadt der Tetrarchie, Cardo und
Augustustempel, Bethsaida-Ioulias und der dort jüngst identifizierte Tempel für Livia). B.
schließt: „Jeder der Drei musste sich am politischen Vorbild des Vaters orientieren, jeder
fand hier seine eigene Antwort im Spektrum zwischen dynastischer Selbstdarstellung,
herrscherlicher Euergesie und dem Kaiserkult als Mittel der politischen Kommunikation mit
Rom” (354).
Kapitel vier umreißt die Verschärfung der Kaiserkultproblematik unter Caligula,
Claudius und Agrippa I. zwischen 37 und 44 n. Chr. (264-309). B. beschreibt die Eskalation
der Kaiserkultproblematik unter Caligula und Agrippa I (u. a. der Statuenbefehl des Caligula
im Herbst 39—Errichtung einer goldenen Statue des Kaisers als Zeus Epiphanes Neos Gaios
im Jerusalemer Tempel, mit der er sich zum Synnaos des jüd. Gottes machen wollte sowie
die Umbenennung des Tempels; Agrippa und die Lösung der Statuenaffäre), die Bedeutung
der neuen Kaiserkultregeln des Claudius für die Juden (u. a. die Toleranzedikte des Claudius
sowie die weitere Judenpolitik des Kaisers; vgl. dazu D. Alvarez-Cineira, Die Religions-
politik des Kaisers Claudius und die paulinische Mission, HBS 19; Freiburg, Basel, Wien:
Herder, 1999) sowie die Stellung des Agrippa I. unter Claudius (Herrschaftsstil, Euergesie
und Kaiserkult unter Agrippa I, Agrippas jüd. Herrschaftskonzept als möglicher Weg in eine
neue Autonomie Judäas, die Folgen der erneuten röm. Herrschaft über Judäa 44 n. Chr.), die
zu einer Übersteigerung von Herodes’ Politik der Balance führte.
Kapitel fünf untersucht den Kaiserkult als Teil der Vorgeschichte des ersten jüd. Kriegs
(310-51). Zu Judäa unter röm. Herrschaft in den Jahren 44-66 n. Chr. und dem neuen Reich
Agrippas II gehört die Frage nach dem provinzialrechtlichen Status und Territorium Judäas
seit 44 n. Chr., der Herrschaftsstil und Kaiserkult von Agrippa II im neuen herodischen
Reich an der Seite Judäas (seit 53 n. Chr.) sowie die Zuspitzung des Konflikts zwischen
Juden, Römern und Griechen um den Geltungsanspruch der Tora im Land Israel in den
Jahren 44-66 n. Chr. (u. a. Aufzählung der zunehmenden Toraverletzungen unter röm. Herr-
schaft seit 44 n. Chr., Anomie und Toraverstöße in Jerusalem, das Verhältnis von
Priesterschaft und Agrippa II, Aussetzung des Kaiseropfers). B. beschreibt die Zeugnisse
zum Kaiserkult im röm. Judäa zwischen 44 und 66 n. Chr. und im Reich Agrippas II., die
illustrieren, „wie intensiv dieser Kult geworden war, wie sehr er längst die Grenzen der
Tempel überschritten hatte und Teil des öffentlichen Lebens geworden war. Hätte er einmal
170 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

die Beziehung zwischen den Juden Judäas und Rom positiv vermitteln sollen, stand er nun
nur noch im Weg: zwischen Juden und Römern, zwischen Juden und Nicht-Juden, zwischen
Tora, Land und Gott” (355).
Der Zusammenfassung (352-5) folgen Literaturverzeichnis (357-94), Abbildungsnach-
weise (395-7) und verschiedene Register (Quellen, Autoren, Namen und Sachen (399-441).
Der Band gibt einen hervorragenden Überblick über ein vernachlässigtes Thema für
Althistoriker, die Judaistik, die antike Religionsgeschichte sowie für die ntl. Zeitgeschichte
und Exegese. Dabei werden die Brücken zum Neuen Testament und der Geschichte des
Urchristentums von der Althistorikerin B. nur knapp geschlagen. Von daher ergäben sich
mehrere weiterführende Perspektiven, die zu verfolgen sich lohnen würde. Die Arbeit zeigt
ferner, dass die Begegnung des Christentums mit dem Kaiserkult nicht erst zu einem
späteren Zeitpunkt und außerhalb Palästinas geschah und von dorther das Urchristentum
(rückwirkend) geprägt hat, sondern bereits das Frühjudentum (als Matrix des
Urchristentums) mit dem Kaiserkult bzw. Vorformen des Staatskultes konfrontiert wurde.
Die überzeugende Beschreibung der Situation im Land nach 44 n. Chr. beleuchtet ferner den
jüd. Widerstand (auch auf Seiten der palästinischen Judenchristen) gegen die Heidenmission
des Paulus.
Die Einführung in den aktuellen Stand der Kaiserkultforschung ist ebenso für die
Diskussion möglicher Bezüge auf den Kaiserkult im Neuen Testament (vor allem in der
JohOff) von Bedeutung sowie für die Auseinandersetzung der Alten Kirche mit den
Ansprüchen des röm. Staates auf verschiedenen Ebenen. B. gelingt es durchweg die
Verquickung von religiösen und politischen Motiven im Kaiserkult in Judäa unter Herodiern
und Römern aufzuzeigen, die von politischem Kalkül und hellenistischer Frömmigkeit
geprägt war.
Bernetts gründlich recherchierte und überzeugende Studie ist zudem von Bedeutung als
Hintergrund und notwendiges Korrektiv für mögliche „antiimperiale” Lesarten ntl. Texte,
die sich in den vergangenen Jahren in einigen Bereichen ntl. Wissenschaft großer
Beliebtheit erfreuen.
Christoph Stenschke, Forum Wiedenest, Bergneustadt /
University of South Africa. Stenschke@wiedenest.d

CAMPBELL, W.S., HAWKINS, P.S., and SCHILDGEN, B.S. (eds.), Medieval Readings
of Romans. New York: T&T Clark International, 2007. Romans Through History and
Cultures Series. Paperback. ISBN-13: 978-0-567-02706; ISBN-10:0-567-02706-6. Pages 1-

This volume originated from the SBL ‘Romans through History and Cultures’ Seminars.
Earlier volumes in the series include, Reading Israel in Romans: Legitimacy and Plausibility
of Divergent Interpretation (2000) and Engaging Augustine on Romans: Self, Context, and
Theology in Interpretation (2002). The project “explores and affirms the legitimacy and
plausibility of divergent interpretations” working with “the assumption … that any
interpretation of a biblical text results from intertwined analytical / textual, hermeneutical /
theological and contextual choices” (Preface). Interpretation is not seen as the exclusive and
isolated work of a ‘standard biblical scholar’ but the result of interaction with systematic

theologians, practical theologians and activists, in which the biblical scholar is not the one
“dictating” to everyone else.
The introduction by Hawkins and Schildgen first gives a very handy overview of the
role of the Bible in the Middle Ages. He begins by stating: “Counter to the notion that the
Bible was ‘rediscovered’ by the Protestant Reformation, the Scriptures in fact stood at the
heart of medieval culture, both learned and popular” (p. 1). There were three basic aspects to
traditional clerical education: lectio, disputatio and praedicatio. The basic assumption in
interpretation was the theory of the four senses of Scripture, which had its roots in the NT
reading of the OT and in the exegetical practice of the Church Fathers. The introduction
briefly presents the research tools which were developed: glossaries, florilegia, postillae,
distinctions, exempla. The early thirteenth century saw the appearance of the first compact,
one-volume edition, the “Paris Bible.” Besides expression in literature and popular plays,
plastic arts and songs, there was an explosion of translations in practically all languages.
The work is divided into four parts. Part One, “Romans in the Twelfth Century,” focuses
on Peter Abelard and on William of St. Thierry; Part Two, “Romans in the Thirteenth
Century,” focuses on Thomas Aquinas and Dante; Part Three consists of four responses to
Parts One and Two; Part Four explores “Romans on the Eve of the Reformation.” The first
article, Rom 3:26 in Abelard’s commentary (H. Lawrence Bond) is a good choice because
Abelard’s interpretation of this verse expresses his own interpretation of redemption and
questions the common theories of captivity / ransom and of divine satisfaction. While later
theologians have been worried by Abelard’s use of “by word and by example” (the specter
of Pelagius!), as if God in Jesus was merely instructing us and setting an example, Bond
argues that the core of Abelard’s statement affirms: “Our justification and our reconciliation
consist in this: God has bound us more to God through love by the unique grace held out to
us through Christ’s passion” (p. 20). For a fuller explanation of his views, Abelard refers to
his “Tropologiae, a work lost or never written” (p. 31). The second article, Romans as Read
in School and Cloister, … the Commentaries of Peter Abelard and William of St. Thierry
(Jean Doutre), illustrates how, among other things, by this time theological and spiritual
readings of Scripture started going separate ways. The third article, on the correspondence
between Heloise and Abelard on an appropriate Rule for female monasticism (Brenda Deen
Schildgen), shows how passages from Romans are used to warn against multiplying rules
and external practices, because what really counts is love (Rom 13:10); Heloise also recalled
Rom 3:27-28 as a warning against pride in works. The fourth article in Part I, (Ian
Christopher Levy) examines the interpretation of Romans 4 during this period and shows the
“sustained attention” to the value of circumcision, undoubtedly because of its perceived
relationship to baptism. Aquinas eventually came to the conclusion that “grace was
conferred in circumcision with respect to all its effects, though in another way than in
baptism” (p. 96). In response, James D. G. Dunn wonders, “I simply ask whether Paul
regarded circumcision as a saving ordinance” (p. 157). By contrast Levy concludes,
Like St. Augustine, the medieval theologians were insistent that there has been only one
salvific faith, one shared by Abraham, Job, Moses, and Paul. Faith in one Word has
always united the people of God, albeit in different sacramental manifestations, until its
culmination in the passion and resurrection of the Incarnate Word (p. 97).
William Franke remarks in his response to Peter S. Hawkins’ article on Romans and
Dante, “Even though Dante nowhere stages any direct encounter with Paul, nor anywhere
172 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

makes Paul or his theology explicitly a theme, nevertheless Hawkins is able to elicit from
Dante’s spare references evidence of a perhaps unexpectedly intense engagement with Paul”
(p. 144). Commenting on Paradiso 28. 136-139, Hawkins explains, “What the Apostle did
not disclose to the Corinthians he whispered nonetheless to Dionysius [the Areopagite!], as
revealed to Beatrice and finally disclosed in the Commedia by Dante Alighieri” (p. 119).
Franke concludes his response,
… this rhetorical reading of Romans by Dante strongly reaffirms—and yet also
qualifies—the central significance of the Letter’s antinomianism as its distinctive
outlook. The vision of a universality transcending every humanly defined law but thereby
affirming the rule of an incalculable divine Law in the universe as whole proves, in the
case of Dante, to be the key to Romans’ quite powerful influence in medieval tradition (p.
The first of the papers in Part Four deals with Nicholas of Lyra, who more than any
Christian scholar of the Middle Ages consulted the post-biblical Jewish interpreters:
In Nicholas’s hands, Galatians 3:24 becomes something more than a reminder that the
Old Law prepared the way for the New. In the context of Nicholas’s entire life’s work,
the role of the teacher is something that contemporary Jews still fulfill because of their
association with the first covenant. Just as the Old Law taught Christians how to
understand the New in the context of human history, so contemporary Jews—those who
know the Old Law best—could serve to teach Christians about Christ (p. 175).
William S. Campbell concludes this very informative collection with an overall
reflection on the papers. Among other issues, he remarks: “Luther’s reaction to an
Aristotelian framework also included his concern that the text of Scripture was obscured by
the overlay of glosses since both had the effect, in his view, of hindering the clear
understanding of the words of Scripture” (p. 209). Campbell points out how contemporary
interpretation of Paul is still in similar ways shaped by “presupposed meta-narratives of the
interpreter” (p. 210). His conclusion is very significant;
The ongoing conversation in which they all participated reminds us as contemporary
biblical interpreters that we interpret not merely as individuals but in mutual interaction
with and dependence upon past and present communities of understanding. Continuity
may then not be construed as a hindrance to innovation but as a creative process of
continuation through transformation (p. 212).
This collection is a very stimulating contribution towards a better appreciation of
mediaeval biblical interpretation and its significance for contemporary interpretation.
Paul B Decock, University of KwaZulu-Natal /
St. Joseph’s Theological Institute,

DECHARNEUX, BAUDOUIN, Jesus.: Paris, France: Entre Lacs, 2007.

In this work, Decharneux surveys a wide range of sources testifying about Jesus, his life,
and his ministry. In an approach that he calls “scientific classical” the author attempts to
describe a portrait of Jesus as a historical figure witnessed by a number of important ancient

texts. The Jesus that interests Desharneux is, however, different from the “historical Jesus”
who, for him, is far from being the real Jesus.
Decharneux has divided his book into two major parts: The first part titled The choice to
love comprises five chapters. This part is actually the main part of the book where sources
are studied in their testimony to Jesus. The last and smaller part is called Anthology and
focuses on the sources themselves.
The first ch. describes the source of the materials used for the composition of the book.
These are classified into external and internal sources. The external sources or non-Christian
sources come mainly from historians. They include the account of the Jewish historian
Flavius Josephus, Suetonius’ testimony on some important figures such as Nero, Claudius,
the twelve Caesars, and other testimonies and letters written to ancient emperors about the
Christian movement. These external sources provide information about Christianity in its
early age. Internal sources are the canonical and non-canonical writings, papyri and patristic
writings and other writings whose list expands to the lost gospels to Hebrews which is
mostly quoted by St Jerome.
The second ch. focuses more on St Paul whose writings provide standing information
about the person of Jesus. After an overview on Paul’s life, education and conversion and
his missionary journeys, Decharneux speaks about the Pauline Jesus. He surveys Paul’s
depiction of Jesus’ life, his birth from the virgin, his ministry and his death as well as the
apostle’s encounter with Jesus. He talks about how Paul, recalling his conversion and
ministry, points out his relationship with Jesus. Paul then testifies to the messianic work of
Jesus and emphasizes on it by focusing on Jesus’ cross, in other words, his sufferings and
his resurrection which implies the hope for the future life, meaning, salvation for those who
have faith in Jesus. Brief, The Pauline Jesus is the Lord (kyrios), the title which connects
Him with God (theos). For Paul therefore, theos to kyrios is a strong link which unites God
to Jesus, making Jesus the Son of God.
The third ch. presents Jesus from the view of the Synoptic Gospels. It starts first with
Mark who, silent about Jesus’ birth and childhood, begins his account with Jesus’ baptism
and deals mainly with Jesus as an adult figure. In the account of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee,
Decharneux believes that Jesus is indirectly revealed as an adopted Son of God (8:29). The
gospel emphasizes his status as a Son of God through various testimonies such as that from
Peter, John the Baptist, and a number of healing miracles of Jesus, all these reveal the
messianic nature and role of Jesus. The gospels of Matthew and Luke present Jesus as the
Messiah expected by Jews, this especially highlighted by the genealogies in these two
gospels. For Luke, the divine nature of Jesus is revealed from his childhood. From his tender
age, Jesus could teach doctors of the Law and answer their questions in an amazing way. His
ministry, death and resurrection testified also to his divine nature as the Messiah. Brief, the
synoptic gospels present Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of Man incarnated and born
from a woman.
The fourth ch. deals with the Johannine Jesus, both from the Fourth Gospel and other
writings of John, his epistles and the Apocalypse. The evangelist John presents Jesus as
Logos, who was from the beginning. After presenting the outline of the gospel, Decharneux
spends time on the beloved disciple, then to Peter and Mary Magdalene. He then discusses
the divinity of Jesus as revealed by the three main signs He performed, then by his act of the
cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem and finally by the passion and resurrection. In the book
174 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

of Revelation, Decharneux observes that Christ is revealed in his divine nature but he
notices that the book is silent about the person of Jesus on his humanity side.
The last ch. of the first part presents Jesus from the perspective of the apocrypha.
Decharneux examines the divinity of the baby Jesus as reported by the gospel of James
where even animals adore him. The donkey and the beef came to adore Jesus in the manger
and later, in Egypt, Jesus is recognized by a number of savage animals. Despite his age,
Jesus could comfort her mother while surrounded by the dragons, lions and other beasts
which walked before him and his parents in the desert when they were fleeing to Egypt. The
apocrypha hence strive to show that the divinity of Jesus was revealed even from his tender
age. These writings, especially the Gospel of Thomas, point out various miracles that Jesus
performed when he was still a child. The apocrypha also present Jesus as a standing figure
demonstrating the love of the neighbor.
In the second part of the book that the author called “Antologie,” Decharneux speaks
about the choice of the sources he used for his book and the procedure he followed in using
his material. The order of his material is mainly divided into three main sections:
1. What he called the Genesis and the childhood of Jesus which combine the genealogy,
the miraculous birth and the childhood and relatives of Jesus
2. The second section is identified as the terrestrial life. This includes whatever Jesus was
and did during his life on the earth. This includes his mysterious life, his wisdom which
was revealed through his teachings, parables, miracles and sufferings.
3. The last section is about Jesus’ revelation and celestial life. This includes his
resurrection, self-revelations to his apostles, and his early community.
By this work Decharneux has proved that despite abundant biographies already
available, more can still be said about Jesus. Using existing sources, Decharneux, the author
of Jesus was able to produce a work that can rightly claim originality. Decharneux
succeeded in depicting Jesus in a way that accommodates various opinions on this figure
that is otherwise not free from controversies.
Not least among the strengths of this work is information about the sources and their
systematic arrangement at the end of the book. This, together with a rich bibliographical list
are helpful tools for further research on the topic.
This book is very relevant for any religious teaching whether Christian or non-Christian.
It is suitable for Bible schools or any Christian teaching institutions. The book provides
information about the founder of the Christian movement, thus pastors and teachers can get
new insights from it. Teachers from the other faiths can also find in the book information
about the Christian religion, especially that the author strived to get relevant information
from various sound sources.
The book is very interesting and relevant for the Christian ministry. However, the reader
may be surprised to note that despite the title “The choice to love”, given to the first and
main part of the book, not so much is said about love in the book. The rapport between the
title and the content of chapter that makes up this part is not straightforward.
Rose Nyirimana Mukansengimana, University of KwaZulu-Natal

DECHARNEUX, BAUDOUIN & FABIEN NOBILIO, (eds.), Figures de l’étrangeté

dans l’évangile de Jean : Etudes socio-historiques et littéraires. Fernelmont: E.M.E &
Intercommunications, 2007.

The book is a collection of 13 papers discussing the “aspects of strangeness” observed in the
Gospel of John. Scholars from various disciplines contributing to this work have been
grouped into three clusters. There is strangeness observed with respect to the text itself, in
the way it, as a literary composition, presents itself to the reader. There is the aspect related
to the Jewish culture often treated in the Gospel as an alien tradition; and then the world
often portrayed as alien to Jesus and his disciples.
Six papers are grouped under the first cluster focusing on the text. The first two focus
more on the prologue (John 1:1-18). The discussion is around the genre and origin of this
passage, its theological content and its relation to the remaining part of the Gospel. Both
contributors argue that the prologue is more than the introductory part of the Gospel. For
Vouga (Vouga, F. Poétique de l’Incarnation: fantaisie et réalisme d’un prologue (John 1:1-
18), the main subject of the Gospel, namely the affirmation of the incarnation, the statement
and confession about the glory of the “logos” is present in this part of the Gospel so that it is
suggested to regard this part not as a prologue, but as the Gospel and that which follows
after it, as the epilogue. In the same line, Decharneux (Decharneux, B. Un prologue
étranger a la narration? Le Logos comme fondation paradoxale) adds, that the prologue is
neither a preamble nor an addition nor simply a piece of hymnology. It is not a kind of
speculation lately written as a prelude to older documents. It is a central text with
theological relevance.
The next two papers treat the question of the relationship of John and the Synoptics.
Siegert’s paper (Siegert, F. D’où es-tu? Une question sans réponse comme midrash de Mark
12:37) identifies three traditions in the Gospel, namely, an ancient Judeo-Christian tradition,
the evangelist’s own tradition, and the tradition of the editors of the Gospel. The first is an
oral tradition of Judean origin relating to the signs and the passion of Jesus. It is independent
from the Synoptics and from Q. The second is Johannine, it confirms and complements the
first and makes reference to Mark and Luke, but less to Matthew. The last is that of the final
redaction. It makes secondary assimilations and is responsible for the direct citations from
the synoptics. Using the question of Jesus’ origin, asked in Mark 12:37, Siegert makes a
case for his claim that the evangelist often reverted to short reference to the Synoptics which
he interpreted.
Van Belle (Van Belle, G. L’évangile de Jean adressé aux lecteurs des synoptiques?
L’hypothèse de R. Bauckham réexaminée) intends to respond to Bauckham who contended
that it is impossible to prove any relation between the Gospel of John and Matthew, or Luke,
or that John wrote last. Using the story about Jesus’ apparition to his disciples in John
20:19-23, 24-29, Van Belle points out what are, for him, characteristics of Luke’s style in
John. For Van Belle, John creatively reworked in various ways materials drawn from the
Synoptics. He spreads throughout his Gospel elements from various passages of the
The last two papers of this section focus more on the text of the Gospel in the way it
presents itself to the reader. For Séverin (Les double sens, ou les incertitudes du lecteur dans
le IVième évangile), the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel is a strange character. He dodges both
those who try to understand him and those who want to lay hands on him to arrest him. And
176 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

so is the text of the Gospel that describes him. This text is replete with riddles, ambiguity
and expression with double meanings. The enigmatic structure of the Fourth Gospel hinders
the reader who can not fully comprehend its strange text and its strange object.
For Zumstein (Zumstein, J. Une rhétorique pour initier/é(e)s), the Forth Gospel was
addressed to an audience of believers, those whom he calls the ”initiated” with the intention
to “initiate” them further. The believer acquainted with the Christian tradition can no longer
take anything for granted. His/her faith is challenged by new questions that draw attention to
new meaning that the reader is invited to discover through a fresh interpretation. In the
Fourth Gospel the believer is called to faith and to a re-shaping of his/her conviction.
The second section groups three papers focusing on the treatment that the Gospel
reserve to the Jewish culture frequently portrayed as a culture alien to Jesus and his
The first paper from Nobilio (Nobilio, F. Le portrait des peuples dans l’évangile de
Jean. Les ’ et les autres, face a un sauveur indigène et étranger) undertakes to
provide a narrative analysis of cultural gaps noticeable in John, between the Jews and other
peoples such as the Samaritans and the Galileans. He suggests that the Johannine narrative
plays around these cultural gaps to highlight its Christology. For him the Fourth Gospel, in
confronting Jesus with people from different cultures, seeks to pose the question of how
God’s fragmented people react to the one and unique Son of God
After Nobilio, two papers focus on one element of the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath. In
his analysis of the way John reports the reaction from the Jews to Jesus’ attitude towards the
Sabbath, Tomson applies what he calls a synchronic, and then a diachronic approach, as he
reads some texts in John. He then ends with a synthesis of his discussion in what he calls an
epichronic reading in which he suggests three stages in the process of the formation of the
Fourth Gospel. These stages correspond to three traditions, namely, Jesus’ tradition located
in the Judaism of his time; the proto-Johannine Gospel originating from a small Judeo-
Christian group around the 70s, and the final text marked by its conflict with the Jews
towards the end of the first century. For Tomson this epichronic reading provides alternative
options for the interpretation of the Gospel. The reader can choose to listen to one or the
other voice from one or the other tradition. This choice will determine the reader’s attitude
toward Judaism in relation to Christianity.
Like Tomson, Krygier (Krygier, R. La transgression du Chabbat comme faire valoir
messianique dans l’évangile de Jean, au miroir de la littérature Rabbinique) discusses
Jesus’ attitude towards the Sabbath. For him Jesus’ transgression of the Sabbath did not
express his opposition to the law, nor did Jesus intend to provide a new interpretation free
from the perverted legalism of the Pharisees. Jesus’ attitude is based on the Jewish law that
allows derogations to the obligation to observe the Sabbath in certain critical situations. The
derogatory clause which, for the Pharisees, could be applicable to cases of critical sickness,
is extended by Jesus to cases of emergency. For Jesus, the imminence of the advent of the
Kingdom of God redefines the order of priorities. The urgency for spiritual salvation can
justify derogation to the observation of the Sabbath. More importantly, the Johannine Jesus
exercises derogatory prerogatives as the Master of the Sabbath. In John, Jesus is so united
with the Father that he can declare that God is acting through him. This is clear in the story
of the healing at the Bethzada pool where Jesus states that in performing the healing on a
Sabbath day he acted with divine prerogatives.

The last section comprises four papers providing a reflection on the strangeness of the
Fourth Gospel with respect to the world. In this section, there is Draper (Draper, J. « Ils
virent Dieu, puis ils mangèrent et burent » (Exode 24 :11) : l’immanence mystique du Dieu
transcendant dans la création, la théophanie et l’incarnation dans « l’étrange » Jésus de
l’évangile de Jean) who argues that John presents Jesus as the incarnation of the Angel of
the Presence, bearer of the name of Yahweh and mediator of divine secrets. The Angel of
the Presence transmits the power and the knowledge of the transcendent God by whom the
world has been created and sustained throughout history. He represents the immanence of
the transcendent God. According to Draper, the Fourth Gospel took roots in the tradition
close to Enoch-Metatron suggesting the existence of a divine figure mediating the vision of
God. This tradition followed an orientation different from the pharisaic-rabbinic tradition
that dominated Judaism marginalizing any other opinion. It is this different source of
inspiration that explains why the Gospel of John is different from the Synoptic Gospels.
Next is Brankaer’s paper (Brankaer, J. La connaissance et le temps dans le discours
d’adieu (Jn 13 :31-16 :33)) that undertakes to discuss the relationship between knowledge
and time in the farewell discourse in the Fourth Gospel which he locates in the
eschatological era. Brankaer analyses three temporal expressions used in connection with
the idea of knowledge. An expression used in connection with the knowledge already
acquired by the disciples at the time when Jesus is speaking to them, an expression referring
to a near or imminent future marked by Jesus’ absence, and an expression referring to the
eschatological time, the time of fulfillment. For Brankaer, Jesus’ presence in time is
ambiguous. In the farewell discourse, he is the terrestrial Jesus who gives his last
instructions to his followers and at the same time, the crucified Jesus who has accomplished
all. At the epistemological level, he has already transmitted to his followers all the elements
of knowledge leading to faith. That knowledge that he communicates, he is, remains in part
hidden to the world.
Then follows Dubois (Dubois, J.D. Les recherches gnostiques actuelles et l’évangile de
Jean by Jean-Daniel) contending that the question of the relation between the Gospel of
John and the gnosis kept surging but it seems no longer to constitute a major concern for the
exegesis of John. He believes, however that the discovery of the texts of Nag Hammadi
reformulates the question of the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. The perspective of
research in this area has rapidly progressed. Dubois surveys this evolution in three sectors,
namely the valentinian Gnosticism, the Basilian Gnosticism and the Sethian Gnosticism.
Coming last, Balzano (Balzano, G. L’ étrangeté de Saint Jean en franc-maçonnerie ou
la postérité initiatique de la lumière) undertakes to point out elements of the Fourth Gospel
that appears in the Free Masons traditions. He notes the prevalence in freemason traditions
of themes such as light, love, the idea of two witnesses, also found in the prologue of the
Gospel of John. Looking at frequent references to Saint John by freemasons, he seeks to
understand the extent to which the Gospel of John influenced this tradition and how this
influence fluctuated through time.
The contributors in this book go beyond confirming what is known about the Gospel of
John, namely that it is different from other gospels. They point out some various aspects that
materialize this difference. The discussion related to the prologue as well as those
attempting to trace the traditions underlying the Gospel are particularly enlightening. Most
papers are well researched and interact with relevant existing materials demonstrating high
scholarship qualities.
178 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

The word “étrangeté” used in the title of the book can be equivocal. It can be understood
as qualifying the Fourth Gospel either as “strange” or as “alien”. Both aspects are attested in
the Gospel of John. Some papers address one aspect, others hint to the other or to both. It
was left to the reader to discover in which sense the term was used in each paper. This
observation applies especially to papers of the first cluster where, apart from one paper
using the term “étranger” in the title, it was not obvious beforehand in which sense
“étrangeté” was to be understood. It is not until the reader begins to read that he/she
understands the meaning used for the term in each paper. For more clarity the introduction
of the book should have prepared the reader to expect both meanings. Moreover, the
introduction could be separated from the acknowledgment.
All the papers have their references in the footnotes, which is some time difficult to
consult. But one paper, (from Bodouin Decharneux), has a list of bibliography at the end,
making their consultation much easier.
The book is a valuable academic resource. It is provocative to scholars who wish to
enter the debate on various issues raised or not touched. Students at postgraduate level will
find good examples of socio-historical and literary analysis of biblical texts. However, it
might not be very easy to be understood by students because of some technical terms in
some papers.
Rose Nyirimana Mukansengimana, University of KwaZulu-Natal

DECONICK, APRIL D, The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation. With a

commentary and new English translation of the complete gospel. London: T&T Clark, 2007.
Paperback. ISBN-10: 0-567-04292-8. Pp 359.

The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation is the title of April DeConick’s (Rice
University) latest book on the subject, a follow-up on her “Recovering the Original Gospel
of Thomas” (2006).
Titles overstate, as they intend to sell and not necessarily reflect the full contents. Those
not familiar with the use of “Gospel” in certain branches of NT scholarship should realise
that the Gospel of Thomas is not a literary unity. Unlike the NT Gospels, it is a modest
collection of sayings that claim to go back on Jesus. Almost every one of the 114 sayings is
introduced or accompanied by the words “Jesus said”. The original “Gospel of Thomas” has
no introduction at all, no outline, plot or ending. Whether it is original is subject of debate.
Who wrote it is anybody’s guess. An insert of later date, only one sentence of a much
disputed textual nature, mentions a “Thomas” or “Judas Thomas” as its author and makes
the Gnostic connection by inserting “secret” before the “words that the living Jesus spoke.”
Not much to go on. The main conclusion of this book: the supposed Gnostic origins of the
core contents of the Gospel of Thomas are probably non-existent.
Its Coptic papyri were discovered quite late, in the 1940’s, in the Egyptian sands of Nag
Hammadi. By that time the local Arabs and Egyptians had two centuries of experience with
producing ancient frauds, but despite its beautiful Coptic hand, the Coptic manuscript was
accepted. It was the days of the “Logia Quelle”-hypothesis, and the Thomas collection
seemed just the kind of thing Q would have looked like. The verbal similarities between
Thomas and the synoptic Gospels (p.299-316; 342-344) and John (p.344-345) are hard to

deny. They roughly add up to 400 Biblical references for a mere 114 sayings. Quite striking,
if one takes into consideration that the actual translation of the complete “Gospel of
Thomas” takes up a mere 10 pages (spaciously printed over p.32-42). The author sets out
her research goal for this book:
My translation of the complete Gospel of Thomas is not meant to be another translation
of the fourth-century Coptic Gospel manuscript. Rather it incorporates the older Greek
fragments into the translation, attempting to provide the earliest edition of the full Gospel
possibly based on the extant manuscripts (p.9).
It should be noted that DeConick’s translation is not a literal rendering of the Coptic
text: “As for my translation of the Coptic, whenever gender-inclusive translation does not
compromise the integrity of the Coptic text, I have chosen to translate the masculine
reference as indefinite or neuter. Whenever possible, I have tried to render idiomatic
statements gracefully into English rather than literally” (p.11).
The author re-examined Greek fragments at several libraries. As a result she calls
attention to the speculative character of substantial parts of the Greek. “My transcription and
reconstruction of the Greek papyri varies significantly from Attridge’s accepted one in
Layton’s critical edition. There were numerous instances where dotted letters in his
transcription were not legible to my eye even under ultraviolet light, or at edges of lacunae
or eroded surfaces” (p.11).
This points to what is arguably the primary contribution of this book; that it allows
better insight for “outsiders” into the text critical background of the “Gospel of Thomas”.
Much of the Greek text (little of which is available anyway) seems open for debate. Most of
the Coptic text could be interpreted as a mixture of Biblical references, loose verbal quotes
and wisdom sayings valued in circles that made use or contributed to the “Thomas
collection”. The latter are usually attributed, not to the original “Gospel” but to “accretion”.
In other words, these represent a gradual growth of the collections as additions to the
original were made. It seems that current paradigm presuppositions about the history of the
NT documents keep the author from drawing more detailed conclusions about the core
“Gospel of Thomas” and orthodox Christianity.
Another point to highlight is that DeConick was responsible for the cover illustration as
well as the contents. It is encouraging to find such creativity that reminds one of Tolkien
(Lord of the Rings), the famous Oxford professor who also illustrated his own stories.
In the commentary on the text, the “source discussion” is one of the parts that could
have been strengthened. It usually bears a speculative character, without factual, textual
proof at all. The great absentees in this discussion (fortunately not in the book, the
discerning reader may make up his/her own mind) are the Gospels from the Christian canon.
Had the author interacted with the early historical sources of Christianity in this discussion,
the result would have led to a collapse of her wider underlying goal to revive Traditions-
geschichte (combined with loose concepts of Gemeindetheologie) in this particular brand of
scholarship. Now, the author failing to involve her carefully presented philological data in
this discussion, much of the argument amounts to circular reasoning and a lot of speculation.
In other words, this book would have been more convincing had the author taken her
textual results more seriously and based her theories on those, instead of speculations or the
opinions of respected scholars. One of the obvious weaknesses of this book is the author’s
lack of confidence in arrivimg at independent conclusions on the basis of the textual facts.
180 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Consequently, a significant number of times the source discussion is limited to one

sentence that uncritically follows the view of a distinguished “authority”. Quispel is
particularly popular. E.g. p.280: “G. Quispel traces this saying’s origin to a Jewish Christian
Gospel.” Or, p.284: “G. Quispel attributes this saying to the hand of the author himself.”
Also, p.288: “G. Quispel thinks that the author of the Gospel created this saying.” A quick
inspection indicates that this is a widespread weakness for Quispel throughout the volume
(cf. p.232, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 251, 256, 262, 278, 280, 284, 288, 293, 294 (2 times for
different logia), 297).
Although this Gnostic enthusiast no doubt qualifies as an eminent academic, the Utrecht
professor worked on the Nag Hammadi library and passed away in Egypt in 2006, he should
hardly be treated as an oracle in this matter. One would at least have expected that
DeConick presented her reasons for accepting the views of Quispel and others.
Despite the uncritical quotations from secondary literature, the primary textual data
force the author to largely dispense with ancient Gnosticism as the author of the Thomas
collection. Because of the Biblical core data that comprise the kernel “Gospel,” she refers
many of the earlier suggested links with Gnosticism to the realm of unfounded speculation,
or wishful thinking on the part of those who were so inclined. DeConick: “My interpretation
does not contain references to the Gnostic hermeneutic applied to the Gospel by numerous
scholars for so many decades. Instead it focuses on providing an alternative hermeneutic
which sees the Gospel as an example of early ‘orthodox’ Syrian religiosity” (p.x).
In conclusion, the main contribution of The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation is
in bringing together the available Greek & Coptic fragments that form the basis of the
“Thomas Gospel”-research. It also grants an insight into the tentative character of much of
the scholarly results in this field. The literary data presented in this book make it less likely
that the “Thomas collection” is an autonomous Gospel-tradition that traces back to Jesus
fully independently of Biblical literature. As a result the Gnostic connection is presented as
a secondary, if not a missing link.
Benno Zuiddam, North-West University

DU TOIT, ANDRIE, (ed.), Focussing on the Message New Testament Hermeneutics,

Exegesis and Methods, ISBN: 978-1-86919-259-4, Protea Boekhuis

This book represents one of the most comprehensive introductions to current theoretical
approaches to the exegesis and interpretation of the NT I have come across in recent years. I
can recommend it unconditionally as a standard methodological introduction to students of
the NT. Furthermore, the specialized scholars who contributed to the book all made their
mark in the world of Biblical studies, for instance the renowned Prof. Dr. Andrie Du Toit,
(editor) who until recently served as president of the prestigious Societas Novi Testamenti
Studiorum (2008-2009) and others like Bernard Lategan, Jan van der Watt, Andries Van
Aarde, etc. On a general epistemological level, the book’s approach reflects the
methodological shift that has taken place in recent years in which the focus shifted from the
origins and prehistory of the text (world behind the text) to the world in and in front of the
text and the hermeneutical dimension thereof, i.e. presenting methods functioning on the

synchronic level. In this new methodological approach we find a stronger inter-disciplinary

approach to biblical exegesis in which the insights of communication science, linguistics,
literary and social studies, modern rhetoric, etc. contribute to the better understanding of
biblical texts. I am of the opinion that the scholars in this book succeeded in retaining the
positive aspects of traditional exegetical approaches, but also successfully adopted, tested
and adapted valuable input from other disciplines with methodological clarity and
thoroughness (all in more than 600 pages).
In no less than 15 chapters, that starts with two chapters by Bernard Lategan (Former
co-chairperson of the SNTS seminar on hermeneutics). In these chapters he discusses NT
hermeneutics in just more than 100 pages, giving a thorough account of the 1) defining
moments in the development of biblical hermeneutics in the first part (early church,
enlightenment, post World War 1, Pre and Post Bultmann, linguistic revolution, reception
theory, etc.) and the 2) hermeneutical process in the second part, in which an effective
hermeneutical model is developed, unlocking the communicative potential of biblical
documents and the dynamic nature of interpretation. In the latter chapter Lategan also
explains challenges and problems when reading the text historically, structurally as well as
reading the text from a reader’s perspective. This results in a balanced view on
In the third ch., naturally following on the chapter on hermeneutics, Andrie du Toit
discusses New Testament Exegesis in theory and practice in which he incorporates relevant
insights from linguistics and literary studies that are relevant to exegesis in a way that even
those who have not received extensive training in traditional grammar and stylistics could
well understand and implement the insights gained. As many young scholars know, the
language used by the former disciplines is often idiosyncratic and difficult to encode. In this
chapter Du Toit then proposes an effective exegetical programme which will enable students
of the NT to conduct an understandable and logical process of exegesis in which they start
with the 1) preliminary selection of a passage; 2) The first reading; 3) Demarcation of the
text; 4) Textual criticism, 5) Determining the socio-historical setting of the passage; 6)
Determining the literary type of the text; 7) Determining the place of the micro text within
its literary macro structure; 8) Analysing the structure of the text; 9) Detailed analysis; 10)
Formulating the message for the first readers; 11) Suggestions for actualizing the text for
today and lastly (12) an accurate translation.
In the fourth ch., the late Willem Vorster and Herman Du Toit write a chapter on a
typology of the form of Greek used in the NT. As all scholars know, the form of Greek
(Koine Greek, Hellenistic Greek, Jewish Greek dialect, translation Greek, Attic Greek etc.)
used in the NT has indeed been debated over centuries and has profound implications for
biblical interpretation. They start off by giving a brief historical review of the investigation
into the problem and rightly point to the fact that even since the time of the church fathers,
there were already conflicting views regarding the Greek of the NT where some ancient
scholars like Celsus were of the opinion that the Greek of the NT is of lesser quality. Over
and against these opinions, the church fathers, like Origen (cf. Contra Celsum 6:1) defended
the integrity of the Greek of the NT and argued that the writers intentionally used a form of
Greek comprehensible to all. They then discuss different forms of Greek and the language
variation within the different NT books.
In ch. five Gert (Jorrie) Jordaan, who also specialized in textual criticism and studied
with Bruce Metzger, writes a chapter on textual criticism as basis for NT exegesis. This
182 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

chapter will be especially helpful for those who need to know what textual criticism is and
why it is absolutely necessary in an exegetical study of the NT. Jordaan also explains what
Paleography is and how it impacts the study of biblical texts and goes on to explain the
different textual witnesses we have, viz. manuscripts, ancient versions and patristic citations.
Under the heading “manuscripts” he discusses the different categories, namely papyri,
uncials, minuscules and lectionaries and explains the symbols used for these manuscripts
and when they were discovered. He also discusses the history of the printed NT text and the
different editions (cf. textus receptus, textus criticus, Westcott and Hort, Nestle-Aland,
Souter, Legg, UBS, the majority text, etc.).
In ch. six Andrie Du Toit explains discourse analysis in detail, starting with the textual
problems that necessitated the development of discourse analysis and provides a clear model
for doing discourse analysis. The reader will soon see that discourse analysis opens up the
main contours of a text and disclose its inner development. The seventh chapter was written
by Herman Du Toit in which he investigates the contribution of modern linguistics to NT
exegesis, explaining deep structure and surface structure within transformational generative
grammar, translation theory and practice, different types of meaning, etc.
In ch. eight Jan van der Watt, who specialized in NT and Greek (Imagery/ Metaphors in
John) writes a chapter on metaphor theory, symbols and imagery, explaining the difference
between literal and figurative language, the dynamics of metaphor, how to read signs and
symbols and also on how to do close reading of parables. This chapter is important for NT
exegesis due to the fact that the interpretation of imageries, symbols and metaphors are
some of the most challenging enterprises since these literary features often lack directness of
expression and therefore it often result in manifold interpretations which are not all true to
the confines of the co-text and context.
In ch. nine Bernard Combrink explains redaction criticism, how it developed historically
and also what positive contributions it brought to the table, but also discusses the
problematic aspects of redaction criticism in a balanced way and closes with its place in
exegetic enterprises of the future. In ch. ten Andries van Aarde, who holds three doctoral
degrees (NT, Ancient Cultural History and Hellenistic Greek) writes a chapter on Narrative
Criticism after decades of teaching New Testament studies, which could be prescribed to
students who want to understand this exegetical enterprise. He also gives thorough
bibliographical references for those who would like to study the subject further. The latter is
also a positive element of the book as a whole, providing a depth of literature for further
investigation. In ch. eleven, Van Aarde and Stephan Joubert discuss social scientific
criticism, again explaining the historical development of the former and the exegetical-
methodological approaches that led to social scientific criticism—referring to those scholars
who played a decisive role in the renaissance of sociological analysis. They end the chapter
with a discussion of different sociological models and various approaches to doing
sociological analysis of NT texts.
In ch. twelve Bernard Lategan discusses the development, basic concepts, relevance and
practice of Reception theory and ends with an example from the gospels (Mark) and the
epistles (Galatians). In the thirteenth chapter Eugene Botha, who specialized in NT
methodology explains speech act theory and gives examples of the application thereof in the
NT. In the fourteenth chapter Johannes Vorster writes on Rhetorical criticism, a subject he
specialized in since his doctoral dissertation. Especially interesting is his discussion of the
emergence of “modern rhetoric” and the principles of rhetorical criticism in nine helpful

steps. In the final chapter John Roberts ends with a chapter on bible translation with special
reference to the NT, in which he inter alia explains the basic difficulties of bible translation
and the different types of translation, namely formal correspondence, dynamic and
functional equivalent.
This book represents one of the most comprehensive and up to date introductions to
current theoretical approaches to the exegesis and interpretation of the NT on the market
today. As I have stated in the opening words of this review, I certainly recommend it as a
standard methodological introduction to both students and scholars of the NT.
Kobus Kok, University of Pretoria

HOLMES, MICHAEL W, (ed. and transl.), The Apostolic Fathers: Greek texts and
English translations. 3rd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007. ISBN 978-0-
8010-3468-8. Pp xxvi + 806. Price unknown.

If you have studied in the classics or theology, your path should have crossed with the one-
volume diglot text in Greek and English of the Apostolic Fathers by the late Bishop Joseph
Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), edited and completed by his younger colleague, J.R. Harmer,
and published in 1891 (two years after the death of Lightfoot) by Macmillan in London.
This great text of yesteryear was the basis on which the current text was formed.
The editor and translator of this volume is Michael W. Holmes (PhD, Princeton),
professor of biblical studies and early Christianity at Bethel College in St Paul, Minnesota.
He has Bruce M. Metzger as Doktorvater and was recently responsible for the commentary
on 1 and 2 Thessalonians in the NIV Application Commentary series. A leading scholar of
the Apostolic Fathers, Holmes is currently writing a major critical commentary on
Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians and The Martyrdom of Polycarp.
Holmes was approached in the 1980’s by Baker Book House to revise this magisterial
work, which resulted in a second edition of Lightfoot and Harmer’s translation in 1989.
Next, the Greek and Latin texts were also revised, updated and published in 1992 as what
became essentially the second edition of the diglot of Lightfoot and Harmer and the first
edition by Holmes. That edition has again been slightly corrected and revised and published
in paperback in 1999.
In 2003 the editors at Baker called on Holmes to do a major revision of the English
translation. The idea was to provide a more “user-friendly” text for introductory-level
students and general readers.
In conjunction with the revision of the English translation Baker also initiated a review
of the Greek and Latin texts. Apart from Latin and Greek the book also includes Armenian,
Syriac and Arabic originals of some of the fragments of Papias. The textual apparatus has
been thoroughly revised and more than two hundred new textual notes have been included.
In addition to these changes in the text, translation and notes, Holmes also expanded the
introductions to all the writings in the corpus to include an updated description of textual
witnesses and problems. The bibliographies were also extended drastically to include the
cream of both classic and recent scholarship. The bibliography of 1 Clement for instance
sports an article by Andrew Gregory in Paul Foster’s 2007 work, The Writings of the
184 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Apostolic Fathers. Now that’s recent for you! And Allen Brent’s study from 2006 entitled
Ignatius of Antioch and the Second Sophistic is cited in the Ignatius bibliography. And while
international scholars hardly ever care to look at South African research, Holmes included
no less than eight publications of Jonathan Draper in the Didache bibliography—also an
acknowledgement of just how strongly Draper features wherever anything is said or written
on the Didache.
At the back of the book a very helpful “Thematic Analysis of the Apostolic Fathers” can
be found, a “Subject Index to the Introductions and Notes”, an “Index of Modern Authors”,
an “Index of Ancient Sources”, and maps describing “The Route of Ignatius” and “The
Spread of Christianity”.
The book is neatly bound in a hardworking green Baladek hardcover with a stitched
gold-ribbon marker for easy reference. The publishers succeeded to include 832 pages
without the book looking and feeling bulky.
Reviewers like Randall Buth and Paul Foster are of the opinion that even if you own an
earlier edition you would want to get a copy of this one. I want to agree with that sentiment
echoing what Scot McKnight writes on his blog: “I have to … give top billing to Michael
Holmes’ new handy Greek-English edition of the apostolic fathers. Simply a must.”
Lambert D Jacobs, University of Stellenbosch

KARRER, M., KRAUS, W., (eds.), Die Septuaginta: Texte—Kontexte—Lebenswelten.

Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007. Hardback. ISBN 978-3-16-149317-1. Pp. xiii + 640.

Der vorliegende Band geht auf eine internationale Tagung des Septuaginta Deutsch Projekts
zurück, die an der Kirchlichen Hochschule Wuppertal im Sommer 2006 stattfand (vgl. Die Tagung präsentierte den Stand der Septuaginta-
Forschung und trieb die Perspektiven für die weitere Arbeit wesentlich voran (Vorwort). Die
Beiträge dieses Bandes führen in die aktuelle Forschungslage ein und geben einen guten
Überblick über die ganze Bandbreite gegenwärtiger LXX-Forschung. Zusammen mit
weiteren Tagungen in Wuppertal und anderswo zeigen die Beiträge ferner, dass das
gegenwärtige, breite Interesse an der LXX weitergehen dürfte und noch viele inspirierende
Perspektiven für die Judaistik, Gräzistik, die Bibelwissenschaften und das Verständnis des
Urchristentums bereithält.
Teil eins, „Die LXX als Textsammlung, ihre Edition und Übersetzung”, würdigt die
LXX als Textsammlung und geht auf die mit ihrer Edition verbundenen
kanongeschichtlichen Fragen ein: R. Hanhart, „Alfred Rahlfs und die Edition der
Septuaginta” (3-7); M. Karrer und W. Kraus, „Umfang und Text der Septuaginta:
Erwägungen nach dem Abschluss der deutschen Übersetzung” (8-63; Einleitung, Umfang
und Aufbau der LXX (W. Kraus), die Entstehungsgeschichte der Septuaginta und das
Problem ihrer maßgeblichen Textgestalt (M. Karrer), Resumée); S. Kreuzer, „Papyrus 967
— Bemerkungen zu seiner buchtechnischen, textgeschichtlichen und kanongeschichtlichen
Bedeutung” (64-82); M. Rösel, „Schreiber, Übersetzer, Theologen: Die LXX als Dokument
der Schrift-, Lese- und Übersetzungskulturen des Judentums” (83-102; Übersetzen im AT
und seiner Umwelt, die Milieus der griech. Bibelübersetzungen, Modelle und Techniken des

Übersetzens, Theologie der Übersetzungen) und B. G. Wright, „The Septuagint and Its
Modem Translators” (103-14).
Die Umwelt und die historischen Kontexte der LXX erscheinen im zweiten Teil. Dazu
gehören die die LXX umgebenden Quellen, die Lebensbedingungen des Judentums unter
den wechselnden politischen Verhältnissen sowie die Rechts- und Lebensverhältnisse jüd.
Gemeinden in Ägypten und jüd. Einzelpersonen: W. Ameling, „Die jüd. Gemeinde von
Leontopolis nach den Inschriften” (117-33; der Tempel, allgemeine Charakteristik der
Gruppe, jüd. Inschriften, Religion, Gemeindeorganisation, Sprache, soziale Verhältnisse); E.
S. Gruen, “The Letter of Aristeas and the Cultural Context of the LXX” (134-56); A.
Jördens, „Der jüd. Renegat Dositheos im Spiegel der Papyrusüberlieferung” (157-65); T.
Kruse, „Das politeuma der Juden von Herakleopolis in Ägypten” (166-75); T. Rajak,
„Translating the LXX for Ptolemy’s Library: Myth and History” (176-93) und J. Wilker,
„Unabhängigkeit durch Integration: Zu den jüd.-röm. Beziehungen im 2. Jh. v. Chr.” (194-
201; das makkabäische Rombild als laus Romanorum, Entwicklung und Intention der röm.-
jüd. Beziehungen, das Bündnis mit Sparta, Integration als Voraussetzung jüd.
Teil drei gilt der Lexikographie und Grammatik der LXX, sowie Aspekten der
Methodologie (z. B. Gewinnung und Auswertung von Daten): K. Hauspie, “The Idiolect of
the Target Language in the Translation Process: A Study of the Calques in the LXX of
Ezekiel” (205-13); J. A. L. Lee, “A Lexicographical Database for Greek: Can it be Far Off?
The Case of amphodon” (214-20); T. Muraoka, “Recent Discussions on the LXX
Lexicography with Special Reference to the So-called Interlinear Model” (221-35); A.
Passoni Dell ‘Acqua, „Von der Kanzlei der Lagiden zur Synagoge: Das ptolemäische
Vokabular und die LXX” (236-47; “Viele Vokabeln der LXX sind dem Sprachgebrauch der
ptolemäischen Administration entnommen. Sie stammen daher aus dem politisch-sozialen
Leben des hellenistischen Ägyptens und seiner Bereiche, werden jedoch in einem
theologischen Kontext verwendet”, 236; was bedeutet dieser Hintergrund für die zentralen
theologischen Begriffe, die über die LXX ihnen Weg in das NT genommen haben?); R.
Glenn Wooden, „The forologos of 2 Esdras” (248-57) und G. Walser, „Die Wortfolge der
LXX” (258-66).
Teil vier, „Schriften und Schriftengruppen in der LXX” behandelt einzelne Texte und
Textgruppen. Dazu gehören Fragen der Textgeschichte, der Übersetzungstechnik, sowie der
historischen, geistesgeschichtlichen und theologischen Verortung von Pentateuch,
Geschichtsliteratur, Psalmen, Weisheitstexten und Prophetenbüchern in der LXX: K. De
Troyer, “When Did the Pentateuch Come into Existence? An Uncomfortable Perspective”
(269-86); J. Joosten, “To See God: Conflicting Exegetical Tendencies in the LXX” (287-
99); W. Loader, “The Beginnings of Sexuality in Genesis LXX and Jubilees” (300-12); S.
Pfeiffer, „Joseph in Ägypten: Althistorische Beobachtungen zur griechischen Übersetzung
und Rezeption von Gen 39—50” (313-22); M. Meiser, „Samuelseptuaginta und Targum
Jonathan als Zeugen frühjüdischer Geistigkeit” (323-35; Gebundenheit an die hebräische
Vorlage und Zwang zur interpretierenden Verbesserung, exegetische Bearbeitungen,
theologische Aktualisierung, nämlich: die angemessene Rede von Gott, Vermeidung
unangebrachter Metaphorik, Vermeidung von Aussagen, die der Vollkommenheit Gottes
nicht gerecht werden oder ihn als Urheber auch des Bösen gelten lassen würden, die
Stilisierung positiv besetzter Erzählfiguren sowie die Tilgung anstößiger Namen bzw.
Namensteile); P. Hugo, „Die LXX in der Textgeschichte der Samuelbücher:
186 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Methodologische Prinzipien am Beispiel von 2Sam 6,1—3” (336-52); J.-H. Kim, „Zur
Textgeschichte von Sam-Kön anhand 2Kgt [Sam] 15,1—19,9” (353-68); E. Tov, „Three
Strange Books of the LXX: 1 Kings, Esther, and Daniel Compared with Similar Rewritten
Compositions from Qumran and Elsewhere” (369-93); E. Eynikel, „The Reform of King
Josiah 2 Kings 23:1—24: Textual Criticism” (394-425); A. Schenker, “Hebraica veritas bei
den Siebzig? Die LXX als älteste greifbare Ausgabe der hebräischen Bibel (erörtert am
Beispiel von 2Chr 1,13)” (426-38); R. J. V. Hiebert, „4 Maccabees 18:6—19 — Original
Text or Secondary Interpolation?” (439-49); E. Bons, „Der LXX-Psalter: Übersetzung,
Interpretation, Korrektur” (450-70); G. Dorival, „Der Beitrag der Kirchenväter zum
Verständnis der Psalmenüberschriften aus philologischer Perspektive” (471-86; die
Zugehörigkeit der Überschriften zum Psalter, erhellen die Väter einige dunkle Stellen des
MT?, quantitative und qualitative Unterschiede zwischen MT und LXX); A. Pietersma,
„Text-Production and Text-Reception: Psalm 8 in Greek” (487-501); M. Bauks, „‘Das Land
erben’ oder ‚die Erde in Besitz nehmen’ in Ps 36 (37 MT) - Ein Übersetzungsvergleich”
(502-22); E. Zenger, „Übersetzungstechniken und Interpretationen im LXX-Psalter am
Beispiel von Ps 129 (130 MT)” (523-43); J. Cook, „The Translator of the LXX of Proverbs
— Is His Style the Result of Platonic and/or Stoic Influence?” (544-58); C. Boyd-Taylor,
“Robbers, Pirates and Licentious Women — Echoes of an Anti-Dionysiac Polemic in the
LXX” (559-71); T. Pola, “Von Juda zu Judas: Das theologische Proprium von Sach 14,12—
21 LXX” (572-80); M. N. van der Meer, “Trendy Translations in the LXX of Isaiah: A
Study of the Vocabulary of the Greek Isaiah 3:18—23 in the Light of Contemporary
Sources” (581-96; der Autor gibt einen Einblick in die enorme Bedeutung der Umwelt der
LXX: “Studying the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible is not only a matter of
examining the translation mechanisms behind the translation process, it is at the same time
also a matter of examining the cultural background that shaped the outlook of the Greek
text”, 596); A. van der Kooij, “The LXX of lsaiah and the Mode of Reading Prophecies in
Early Judaism: Some Comments on LXX Isaiah 8—9” (597-611); G. Fischer, „Die
Diskussion um den Jeremiatext” (612-29); H.-J. Stipp, „Zur aktuellen Diskussion um das
Verhältnis der Textformen des Jeremiabuches” (630-53) und J. Lust, Multiple Translators in
LXX-Ezekiel?” (654-69).
Unter dem Stichwort „Wirkungen” behandelt F. Wilk, „Gottes Wort und Gottes
Verheißungen: Zur Eigenart der Schriftverwendung in 2Kor 6,14—7,1” (673-96). G. J.
Steyn fragt “Which ‘Septuagint’ are We Talking about in New Testament Scholarship? Two
Examples from Hebrews” (697-707). Steyn schließt
… that one cannot unqualifiedly talk about “the” LXX when dealing with the quotations
in the NT. Hebrews provides examples of the complexities facing scholars in their quest
for the Vorlage of these quotations. The fact that more than three quarters of the
quotations already appeared before the time Hebrews was written, already presents
multiple layers of the reception of these quotations as potentially known written or oral
traditions. Not all quotations might be traced back to either the LXX or the MT. These
are not the only options to choose from in determining the Vorlage of the quoted texts …
M. Müller diskutiert die „Die LXX als Teil des christlichen Kanons” (708-27; Umfang
der LXX und Kanongeschichte, die LXX als Zeugnis theologischer Tradition, der Streit um
den wahren Bibeltext). Nach Müller verdient die LXX nicht allein Interesse als ein

alternativer Text zur Biblia Hebraica und aus der Perspektive, ob ihr Wortlaut textkritisch-
textgeschichtlich „richtiger” als der des hebräischen Textes ist. „Die LXX baut, weil sie
auch Apokryphen beinhaltet, zugleich eine Brücke über die Zeit zwischen dem AT und dem
NT und dementiert damit die Vorstellung von einem Aufhören der Entstehung von heiligen,
d. h. biblischen Büchern. Die größte Herausforderung bei einem ‚canonical approach’ ist
dabei, dass innerhalb des Kanons ein Interpretationsprozess auftritt—und dieser
Interpretationsprozess Wege aufzeigt” (727). Müller schlussfolgert: „Für die christliche
Kirche stellt sich deshalb nicht zuerst die Frage, ob das AT die Biblia Hebraica oder die
LXX ist, sondern ob die Schriften des Judentums im Lichte des Glaubens, der im NT zum
Ausdruck kommt, gelesen werden” (727). C. Safrai schließt mit „The Reading Isch (Man):
The Exclusion/Inclusion of Women in Tannaitic Midrashim and the LXX” (728-38).
Verschiedene ausführliche Register beenden den hervorragend produzierten Band.
Zu den noch nicht ausreichend behandelten Themen im Umfeld der LXX gehören deren
historische und gegenwärtige theologische Bedeutung sowie die Theologie in und hinter den
einzelnen Übersetzungen bzw. Revisionen. Die knappen Überlegungen und Beispiele bei M.
Rösel (S. 101f) weisen auf ein weites und vielversprechendes Feld hin. Ebenso zeigt der
Beitrag von M. Müller weiterführende theologische Perspektiven auf.
Am Ende des Vorwortes wird auf ein digitales Gesamtliteraturverzeichnis des
vorliegenden Bandes hingewiesen, das eine wertvolle Zusammenstellung bietet: www.uni- Zum Thema ferner, H.-J. Fabry, D. Böhler
(eds.), Im Brennpunkt: Die Septuaginta III: Studien zur Theologie, Anthrolopogie,
Ekklesiologie, Eschatologie und Liturgie der Griechischen Bibel, BWANT 174 (Stuttgart:
Kohlhammer, 2007; Aufzählung der Beiträge in ZAW 120, 2008, 447) und M. A. Knibb
(ed.), The Septuagint and Messianism, BEThL 195 (Leuven: Peeters, 2006; Aufzählung der
Beiträge in ZAW 120, 2008, 472).
Christoph Stenschke, Forum Wiedenest, Bergneustadt / University of South Africa

KURUVILLA, ABRAHAM, From Text to Praxis: Hermeneutics and Homiletics in

Dialogue. Library of New Testament Studies, London and New York: T&T Clark
International, A Continuum Imprint, 2009.

Judging from frequent titles published on the art, (or non-art) of preaching one wonders,
“Will preachers ever get it right?” Abraham Kuruvilla, Assistant Professor of Pastoral
Ministries at Dallas Theological seminary, counters the stalemate via the road of “pericopal
He writes of “plight of homileticians” as resulting from theorists of interpretation,
oblivious to ecclesial settings, preaching texts and sermonic intentions, have remained
insensate to the plight of homileticians and contributed precious little to the arena in which
is transacted one of the most crucial operations of the Church proclamation of scripture. In a
first move towards postulating a pericopal theology he cites David Buttrick who reproached
works on biblical preaching as “leaving out something in between.” The crucial moment
between exegesis and homiletical vision is not described, and as he sees it, the shift between
the study of the text and the conception of the sermon—perhaps occurring in a flash of
188 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

imagination—is never discussed. “So, alert readers are left with the odd impression that we
move from the Bible in a contemporary sermon by some inexplicable magic!”
The aim of Kuruvilla’s work is to render that “magic” less mysterious, and so to remedy
the bemoaned lacuna between text and praxis by the fruitful dialogue between hermeneutics
and homiletics. Hermeneutics considered here as critical reflection on interpretative practice,
appears to be a natural ally of homiletics—the application of a literary corpus, the canonical
scriptures, by and to an interpretive community of believers. Such an alliance, privileging
the duty and role of the preacher as a “theological-homiletician mediating between the past
of the inscription and the present of the congregation, will prove to be faithful in delineating
a valid movement from text to praxis.” In labeling the preacher theological-homiletician,
this work reveals its tenor: the one proclaiming the biblical text to the church ought not to be
merely a homiletician but a theologian as well. It is the working out of this nomenclature,
especially the theologian half of the appellation, that Kuruvilla states, is the essence of his
This struggle to bridge the gap between inscribed content and real lives of real people—
the geographical, linguistic, psychological and chronological gulf between two worlds—is
to attempt to “conquer a remoteness, a distance between the past cultural epoch to which the
text belongs and the interpreter. How does the interpreter construct this bridge and conquer
this breach? It is an unfortunate verity that in this building project homileticians abandoned
to their own devices, flounder in the chasm is.” At this stage the reader wonders what
exegetical method Kuruvilla is advocating as he moves on to the heart of his thesis namely
the pericope; yet this becomes clearer as the work proceeds.
According to Kuruvilla valid application from pericopes is the cardinal task of the
homiletician. A theological liaison between the two fields is called for, respecting both the
literary entity of the text and the liturgical event of its proclamation. This cooperative
enterprise, as is envisaged and essayed here, will alone be efficacious in relieving the dolour
of the preacher; it is only the bi-partisan agency of hermeneutics and homiletics that biblical
pericopes may be validly exposited for application.
A pericopal theology operates within three assumptions: hermeneutical, pragmatic and
theological. The hermeneutical, fleshed out in Chapter I, defines genre is a Wittgensteinian
language game in relation to a written discourse. As all are games, those of language too are
governed by rules, implicit mandates by which particular texts are both created and
comprehended. Chapter 2 lists the Rules for the language-games of primary genres falling
across four broad categories—narrative, law, prophecy and hymnody. Besides which there
are The Rule of Plot; Rule of Interaction; Rule of Correction; Rule of Rationale, Rule of
Portrayal, Rule of Perspective,
Ch. 3 delineates the world projected in front of the text—a canonical world that depicts
God and his relationship to his creation in its multifarious facets. It aids and abets a practice
of reading that operates from the understanding that texts project worlds that facilitate their
appropriation: Rules of Structure; Rule of Completion; Rule of Singularity; Rule of
Organization; Rule of Function; Rule of Application; Rule of Congruence; Rule of
Ecclesiality; Rules of Content; Rule of Intertextuality; Rule of Applicability; Rule of
Sequentiality and Rule of Primacy.
Kuruvilla admits that both in and secondary genre primary govern in a paradoxical
manner, by restraint and release. Restraint grounding the interpretive operation upon the
original textual sense; release, in contrast, expanding the scope of meaning beyond the sense

to the world projected by the text and transhistorical intention it bears, enabling future
Ch. 4 concentrates primarily upon the homiletical contribution to the dialogue between
hermeneutics and homiletics. It therefore deals with the textual object of sermonic focus, the
biblical pericope. Drawing upon the concept of covenant renewal as a paradigm for the
homiletical enterprise pericopes are utilized in an ecclesial setting. Kuruvilla envisages a
bipartite transaction in exposition; the task of the theologian-homiletician consisting in
moving from pericope to theology, and subsequently from theology to application.
In a Conclusion Kuruvilla states the need for work to be undertaken to broaden the
scope of what he has written. The list of the Rules of primary genre could be expanded to
include guidelines for other genres and maybe subgenres: wisdom literature, NT epistles,
apocalyptic writings, parables etc. He invites further postulation on sensus plenior, going
beyond what the author intended, and most importantly the role of the Holy Spirit and the
spiritual formation of the theologian homiletician, “both of which can be ignored only with
great loss to the preacher, to the preaching endeavour and those at the receiving end of this
Regarding Kuruvilla’s exegetical method, it is clear that while he functions within a
grammato-historical milieu he is not insensitive to historical-critical considerations, though
he does not belabour them. Always keeping his eye on the world-in-front-of the text, he
leans towards narrative criticism and canonical criticism, thus going a step further than the
classic expositors, Sidney Greidamus and Haddon Robinson, both of whom acknowledged
narrative and canonical elements in sermon preparation. Yet Kuruvilla, still the expository
preacher, has integrated these elements, with philosophical and linguistic disciplines, among
the most cited theorists being, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Paul Ricouer, Mikhail Bakhtin, Richard
Burridge and Georg Gadamer. It will be interesting to observe what reception this work will
have by preachers and theorists—many of whom are either still clinging to a strictly
grammato-historical based expository preaching or moved into dialogic and non-
propositional preaching in all its variations.
It must be added that Kuruvilla, being a late starter in the field of theology, defines
himself as a “dermatologist by trade and a theologian by passion.” Not only is he a
meticulous scholar, whose Text to Praxis is highly recommended, but also a blogger of
exceptional creative and communicative finesse, whose site is worth
Margaret Mollett, St Augustine College of South Africa.


Grace and Freedom: Essays in honour of John K. Riches, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2009.

For teachers who specialise in the Pauline Books of the NT there is a constant struggle to get
their students to appreciate the layers of reception and context that have accrued to these
texts over the centuries. We attempt to offer them an appreciation of the communities in the
Greco-Roman world, the site for the reception of the “original message,” and to address the
questions whether categories like “weak” and “strong”, “Jew”, “Greek”, “Barbarian” and
“Gentile” mean the same thing when used in different letters to different communities. The
next layer of reception we need to confront is the way these texts were altered in their
190 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

meaning by the reformation theologians who added new meanings to categories such as
“law”, “grace” and “freedom” which reflect the concerns and contexts of late medieval
Europe as it burst into the Renaissance. Finally if we are to take context seriously we need to
look at the reception of this literature in the present context and since we are Africans and
South Africans, how these letters have been read and how they can be read in African
contexts today. For all these reasons the present volume has a cornucopia of riches to offer.
With a focus on the concepts of “grace” and “freedom” various essays offer us readings of
the Pauline corpus from diverse contexts. John Barclay (Barclay J.M.G. Grace Within And
Beyond Reason: Philo And Paul In Dialogue) and David Sim (Sim D.C. Paul and Matthew
on the Torah: Theory and Practice) imagine Paul in dialogue with his Jewish context and
particularly his Jewish contemporaries in the form of Philo and Matthew, in an era that
Donald Akenson has referred to as the “most inventive, most imaginative, most ideationally
fecund in matters of religion of any time that is adequately recorded in human history”
(Akenson, Donald H. Saint Saul. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 15). Barclay
aims to use the dialogue between Paul and Philo to “discern as precisely as possible in what
respects Paul’s theology of grace was radical and of such revolutionary potential for later
interpreters” (Barclay 2009: 9) and concludes that, particularly with regard to the theology
of inexplicable grace in Romans 9, Paul’s “radical stance would worry any responsible
theist… [and] remain forever a gadfly, an irritant and a potentially explosive ingredient in
the theological cannon, never fully assimilable but also never completely excluded”
(Barclay 2009: 21). Sim wishes to work in the barren field of comparisons between the
writings and theology of Matthew and Paul and particularly their theoretical views of the
Torah and “the practical applications of their respective views in the Christian communities
they represented” (Sim 2009: 51).
I found these essays along with those by Troels Engberg-Pederson (‘Everything Is
Clean’ And ‘Everything That Is Not Of Faith Is Sin’: The Logic Of Pauline Casuistry In
Romans 14:1- 15:13) (an elaborated unpicking of some intricate textual problems about the
weak and the strong in Romans 14 and 15), Karen Wenell (Testing The Boundary: Ritual,
Moral And Supramoral Responsibility In Jesus And Paul) (a fascinating look at the
reinterpretation of the Pentateuchal boundaries around the covenant which we might
encounter in the Gospel writings about Jesus and the letters of Paul, particularly Galatians
and 1Corinthians) and Joel Marcus (‘I Believe; Help My Unbelief!’ Human Faith And
Divine Faithfulness In Mark 9:14-29) (an exegetical exploration of πίστις in the healing of
the epileptic boy in Mark and it’s implication for the discussion of Divine Faithfulness in
Pauline writings) offered me much to ponder about the Jewish heritage of Grace and other
key terms in Christian theology and show how the classic Lutheran dichotomy between
LAW and GRACE, Jewish Legalism and Christian Freedom may make sense for the narrow
purposes of systematizing denominational dogmatics, but cannot contain the full riches of
what the Bible, as a text, has to offer the open minded interpreter.
This theme of open mindedness (or the polysemous quality of biblical literature) and the
narrowness of dogma was fully carried through into the second half of this collection,
entitled Reception and Theology. On the one hand, Stephen Chester (Who Is Freedom For?
Martin Luther And Alain Badiou On Paul And Politics), Gerald West (Constructing African
Christianity: The Voice Of Paul In The Formative Teaching Of Isaiah Shembe), Leslie
Milton (‘Your Circumcision Has Become Uncircumcision’ (Rom 2:25): Context And
Culture In New Testament Study) and even Ben Quash (Against Pecking: Christian Law

After Pentecost), with his study of some contemporary Jewish and Christian responses to the
concept of Law, gripped my attention with their openness to the reception of Paul’s writings
by other faiths from Marxism to Shembe. As a South African scholar interested in the
hermeneutics of the reception of Paul in the African context, I identified most fully with
West and Milton who offer in their essays respectful and richly nuanced portraits of
Africans coming to terms with the interpretation of Paul, with appropriating the voice of the
apostle, of hearing the resonances of the issues that concerned him and his community in
their own cultural struggles to be true to different heritages that contest the field of their
present context. On the other hand, Angus Paddison’s (P.T. Forsyth And The Christian Life)
exploration of the writings of the Scottish theologian P.T. Forsyth seemed to offer me
nothing but narrow dogmatic thinking constrained within the kind of dour protestant
orthodoxy that left me unable to summon up the will to finish the essay. Two other essays in
the collection also stretched my tolerance for openness to the views of others. The first was
Christopher Rowland (William Blake And The Life In The Divine Body) in his essay on
William Blake was clearly erudite, but perhaps too otherworldly, for someone concerned
with exegesis in context, but welcome in its openness to dialogue with the texts that straddle
the line between disciplines as Blake’s metaphysical poetry clearly does. The second essay,
Paul Middleton’s study of martyrdom (‘Dying We Live’ (2 Cor 6.9): Discipleship And
Martyrdom In Paul), questioned my view of this most beloved of Christian tropes by
showing how Paul and many later hagiographies of the martyrs inverted the categories of
life and death to the point where some incidents could be described as Roman assisted mass
suicides. The Romans who were no strangers to the concept of holding a final symposium
over a cup of hemlock, rather than the more traditional spiced wine, or the exquisite
pleasures of discoursing on philosophy, while your lifeblood eased away from your wrists
into a warm bath, were nonetheless horrified at the seeming eagerness for suicide of these
crazed religious fanatics, in much the way that modern westerners express their incredulity
at the motives of Islamic suicide bombers. Which only goes to show, to make a point about
contextual exegesis, just how far our context has moved on from these ancient times.
In sum, this volume is surely a fitting tribute to John Riches, reflecting as it does, his
range of interests from Africa, to fair trade (in ideas in this case), to the Bible, Politics and
Philosophy. Many of the essays contain personal testimonies of the way this great scholar
has touched their lives and the quality of the students displayed here encourages us to return
our attention to the work of the master. For the breadth and wealth of the scholarship
contained in this volume, it deserves to be high on any list of new acquisitions for libraries
in Theological departments and seminaries. In addition any serious Pauline scholar would
not go wrong including this collection on their bookshelf
Wilhelm H. Meyer, University of KwaZulu-Natal

NEYREY, JEROME H. AND STEWART, ERIC C, (eds), The Social World of the New
Testament: Insights and Models. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59856-
128-9. xviii + 295 pp.

The Context Group has made a significant impact on biblical studies through social-
scientific criticism, making us aware that the bible and related texts were products of their
192 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

own world, subject to different social dynamics, values and institutions that also helped to
shape their message. This is critically important if we want to avoid anachronism and
ethnocentrism and recover the original meaning of the texts. This volume, edited by Jerome
H. Neyrey and Eric C. Stewart, represents but a sample of the Context Group’s work that
has developed, from what was once viewed as new and arbitrary, to what is absolutely
necessary, indeed, to what should carry priority in biblical interpretation (and translation!).
All the chapters in this volume have been subject to peer review on two previous occasions
(as papers and when published in journals/chapters in books) and now we have the benefit
of having them collected in this volume.
The volume consists of four main parts. Part 1: Social-Scientific Criticism (chap. 1);
Part 2: Institutions (chaps. 2-4); Part 3: Culture (chaps. 5-13); and Part 4: Modal Personality
(chap. 14). An introduction by the editors to every chapter helps the reader to prepare for the
material to follow. The volume also contains nineteen illustrations and figures to help the
reader, and apart from the contributions of the editors, also contain indexes of modern
authors, subjects, and ancient sources for easy reference.
Ch. 1, titled “Rhetorical Criticism and Social-Scientific Criticism: Why Won’t
Romanticism Leave Us Alone?”, author Bruce J. Malina sets the scene for the aims and
purposes of social-scientific criticism, which “has as its goal to find out what an initial
audience understood when it heard some person read a given [New Testament] document
aloud” (p. 6). What this requires is knowledge of the social system, and of the language
embedded in that system. Malina argues that contemporary (literary) rhetorical criticism is a
residue of the reaction to the Enlightenment known as “Romanticism”, which is steeped in
subjectivism. As such, subjective and individual experience, rather than “objective”
knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean social world of meaning is (unknowingly) brought
into the interpretation of texts. Overall Malina’s point is well taken, although he at times
expects much of his readers to follow his argument and what he understands as rhetorical
criticism may not be shared by all. A table that summarizes the differences between social-
scientific and literary (= rhetorical?) criticism (p. 18) may come to the rescue.
Ch. 2, titled “All in the Family: Kinship in Agrarian Roman Palestine” is a
contribution by K.C. Hanson. Kinship, Hanson explains, was the primary social domain that
affected all social relationships, institutions and values. It was a matter so taken for granted,
it was often left implicit. Hanson gives concise descriptions of how kinship was influenced
by gender (roles of males and females; gender and space), genealogy and descent (that
established certain rights and social statuses), marriage and divorce, inheritance, followed by
a short study of Jesus’ family in the gospels. For Hanson, there is a lot of uncertainty about
Jesus’ origins and the nature of the relationship to his family (p. 43). Whatever the exact
circumstances, the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke functioned to establish Jesus’
ascribed honor due to his adult achievements, while also reflecting the interests of the
evangelists. The Gospel of John (and Hebrews) gives “theological” import to Jesus’ origins,
and our earliest sources (Q, Paul, Mark, Hanson also includes the Gospel of Thomas) make
no claims for the ascribed honor of Jesus’ family lineage.
In ch. 3, “God in the Letter of James: Patron or Benefactor?”, Alicia Batten argues
that in contrast to the patron-client institution, God is depicted in the Letter of James as a
benefactor. Whereas the patron-client relationship was characterized as an enduring
exchange of goods and services between social unequals, sometimes even hypocritically
described as “friendship”, benefaction, something she argues needs to be distinguished from

patronage, is characterized by a lack of self-interest. The subtle differences between

patronage and benefaction she also demonstrates from Greek and Roman sources. Biblical
(especially wisdom) literature often use the language of benefaction to describe God. In the
Letter of James, therefore, we find an opposition to patronage, especially in its
discrimination between (flattery of) the rich and (ill-treatment of) the poor (cf James 2:1-
13). James achieves this by his language of friendship and representing God as a generous
friend and benefactor of the community. Yet this kind of benefaction must also be
demonstrated through mutual aid in the community.
Ch. 4, “Jesus and Agrarian Palestine: The Factor of Debt”, is an investigation into
the social dynamic of debt in early Roman Palestine by Douglas E. Oakman. Various
ancient sources give evidence for debt in Roman Palestine. Oakman suggests that three
levels of taxation (priests; Herodians; procurators) burdened the producers and also offers a
model (p. 73) to illustrate the pressures imposed by debt on the lower strata in Palestine. If
normal rents and taxes were not difficult enough, natural disasters and greed could also lead
to debt and foreclosure, and this entire dynamic led to an increasing level of tenant farmers
and the landless class. How did socio-economic concerns, then, feature in the ministry and
message of Jesus (pp. 75-80)? Oakman’s survey of debt in the Gospels, especially within the
parables (Matt 18:23-35; 5:25//Luke12:58; Luke 16:1-9) and the Lord’s Prayer highlight the
aspect of debt forgiveness, a revolutionary and subversive agenda in agrarian antiquity.
Jesus’ message appealed in particular to the landless (beggars, prostitutes, tax collectors,
etc). His vision of liberation coming with the reign of God directly attacked a principal
element of the Roman order in Palestine.
In Ch. 5, “Loss of Wealth, Loss of Family, Loss of Honor: The Cultural Context of
the Original Markarisms in Q”, Jerome H. Neyrey offers a study into the honor-shame
dynamic in Q 6:20-22. At first he explains that “poor” (ptochos) refers to a beggar, which in
addition to its economic meaning, also carried cultural and social import. Honor was
intimately connected to (the public display of) wealth and the family (therefore ancestry,
genealogy, clan, parents). Loss of family meant loss of wealth and honor. Also, makarios
forms part of the lexical field of “honor and shame”. The hypothesis Neyrey advances is as
follows: “[T]he original four markarisms describe the composite fate of a disciple who has
been ostracized as a ‘rebellious son’ by his family for loyalty to Jesus. This ostracism results
in total loss of all economic support from the family … and total loss of honor and status in
the eyes of the village … Jesus proclaims them ‘honorable’” (p. 92). Neyrey’s arguments are
convincing, and he substantiates it by looking at other passages in Q that reflect conflict or
division within the family (Q 12:51-53; 14:25-26) or loss of wealth (Q 12:22-32; 12:33-34).
Chapter 6 is authored by John H. Elliott and is titled, “The Epistle of James in
Rhetorical and Social-Scientific Perspective: Holiness-Wholeness and Patterns of
Replication”. For Elliott within the rhetorical structure of the letter the main theme of
completeness and wholeness, as well as their opposites (division and fragmentation) is
stated at the beginning (James 1:3-4). Throughout the body of the letter fragmented and
divisive behaviour is countered by exhortations to wholeness and holiness (pp. 106-108).
Elliott therefore argues that James, when addressing fragmentation and wholeness, “invokes
traditional distinctions of purity and pollution to press for a restoration of holiness and
wholeness of the Christian community and a reinforcement of its distinctive ethos” (p. 106).
Elliott then gives an overview of purity and pollution in social-scientific perspective (pp.
108-111) and persuasively sets out how it applies to James (pp. 111-119). James, when
194 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

addressing a mixed community of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, wants

to restore wholeness (holiness) on a personal, social and cosmic level “with respect to
personal integrity, communal solidarity, and religious commitment” (p. 118). A table on p.
119 also neatly summarizes Elliott’s study.
Ch. 7 is another contribution by Douglas E. Oakman and investigates the social location
of Jesus. Titled “Was Jesus a Peasant? Implications for Reading the Jesus Tradition
(Luke 10:30-35)”, Oakman uses the parable of the Good (Oakman: “Foolish”) Samaritan,
and argues that Jesus is best seen as a peasant artisan and that he spoke to at least some of
the interests of fellow peasant villagers, although not always agreeing with them. In
interpreting the story of the Good (“Foolish”) Samaritan, Oakman tentatively suggests Jesus
uses outside threats to peasants (bandits, commerce, the inn) as a positive metaphor for the
kingdom. God’s reign is likened to the actions of a hated foreigner of despised social
occupation and revealed in the wilds of bandits and inns. God’s generosity (grace) is
enormous, folly, and dangerous, and found in unlikely places. So the parable functions as a
parable of reversal. Peasant villagers (also the governing elites) must overcome some of
their own prejudices. “The kingdom [of God] is total social challenge and transformation”
(p. 137). Oakman’s interpretation needs to tie up some loose ends, but it leads us into new
and exciting directions nevertheless.
Ch. 8, titled “The Social Location of the Markan Audience”, is an investigation by
Richard L. Rohrbaugh. He works on the assumption that Mark was written in a village or
small town in southern Syria or Transjordan or upper Galilee. Rohrbaugh explains that a
fundamental feature of agrarian societies was social stratification (see model of Palestine on
p. 146) and offers an overview of the various social classes and how they are represented in
Mark (pp. 145-156). But what was the social level of Mark’s audience? The boundary
language of Mark vis-à-vis the social elite indicates that Jesus repeatedly violated purity
rules and his contact with the unclean demonstrated that marginal and unclean Israelites, as
well as Gentiles, were welcome in the people of God. Yet Jesus’ own behaviour would have
been nothing out of the ordinary for the peasantry, because most of them were not capable
of maintaining the “Great Tradition”. The way Jesus therefore behaved and his emphasis on
an internal purity (that also functioned as a defense of Mark’s community) is therefore a
“statement that purity before God is possible within the limits of a peasant way of life” (p.
Ch. 9, authored by S. Scott Bartchy, is titled “Who Should Be Called ‘Father’? Paul
of Tarsus between the Jesus Tradition and Patria Potestas”. It is a study on gender, and
Bartchy suggests that Jesus challenged the Israelite system of filial piety and the authority
(and honor) of fathers (e.g. Matt 10:34-37; 8:22; 23:9; Luke 9:60; 14:26), and required a
redefinition of three related concepts: power, honor and family. In the imitation of God,
domination must be replaced by the empowerment of others. Paul also sought in a variety of
ways to put into effect Jesus’ strategy (1 Cor 6-7). He addresses members as independent
decision makers (pp. 170-172) and surrenders his own privileges—the “strong” are
measured by their willingness to empower the “weak” (e.g. 1 Cor 4:12-16; 12:24-25). This
rejection of partriarchal authority and domination, shared by Jesus and Paul, and which
should not be confused for egalitarianism, plays out in a surrogate family and values of
sibling kinship, where honor is attained through serving (not competing), and authentic
power is demonstrated by empowerment (not control) of others (p. 178).

Ch. 10 is another contribution by Jerome H. Neyrey. Focusing on space it is titled

“‘Teaching You in Public and from House to House’ (Acts 20:20): Unpacking a
Cultural Stereotype”. Neyrey explains Acts 20:20 sets out space as public and private,
while also containing speech, that is, who may speak what, when, where, to whom, and for
what purpose. His study then proceeds to explain a model of “territoriality” that looks at
classification, communication of that classification, and control of the place classified. What
Neyery founds in the ancient texts are various classifications of public/private space for
males. There is the public/political, and private space has two subsets: nonpolitical but
nonhousehold, and household space (pp. 185-188, 197). Alongside this is the classification
of space as honorable/nonhonorable, which also stands in relation to roles of males and
females. But where does Luke typically locate Paul? Neyrey’s review of Acts leads him to
conclude that Paul has a voice in (honorable) public Greco-Roman (political) space and in
private household space, but is denied in Israelite public (temple) space and private
(synagogue) space (p. 193, 196-197). When Acts 20:20 refers to “public” it means
residences of governors, kings and city centers, and “house to house” denote private
household space used for assembly.
Ch. 11 is a study on healing by John J. Pilch titled “Healing in Luke-Acts”. He uses
cross-cultural concepts of sickness and healing and looks at the health care system (pp. 205-
211) and taxonomy of illness (pp. 211-216) in Luke-Acts. He cautions that readers of the
Bible must not impose observations of Western culture of health and sickness, healing and
curing on the biblical period, something medical anthropology calls “medicocentrism” (p.
203). Focusing on the term illness, it refers to a socio-cultural perspective that depends on
the social and personal perception of socially disvalued states. Healing provides personal
and social meaning for life problems. Luke portrays Jesus as an anointed, spirit-filled,
exorcising-and-healing prophet of the community, and the latter’s acknowledgement of him
sets Jesus in the folk sector of the health care system (although he also features in the
professional and popular sectors). The taxonomy of illness identifies spirit involvement, the
three symbolic body zones, and purity and impurity. Pilch suggests that impurity can be an
all-encompassing category for illnesses, for Jesus’ therapeutic activity restores afflicted
persons to purity/wholeness (= health) and full membership in God’s community.
John H. Elliott makes another contribution in ch. 12, “Paul, Galatians, and the Evil
Eye”, in view of Galatians 3:1. The evil eye referred to the belief that a god, animal, demons
or individuals (especially strangers/outsiders, social deviants, physically disabled/deformed
and blind persons) can cast an evil spell on anything they look at, causing injury, or the
destruction of life or health, livelihood, honor or personal fortune. One of the root causes for
this evil stare was envy. There were protective measures as well, the underlying principle
being homeopathic magic and similia similibus (“like against like”). In evil-eye cultures and
close-knit communities evil-eye accusations against outsiders or opponents are
commonplace to demarcate social boundaries and to ostracize persons as social deviants (pp.
226-227). Apart from Gal 3:1 Elliott detects several instances of evil-eye language and
nuances in Galatians (e.g. 4:12-18), and suggests Paul is “parrying an evil-eye accusation
directed against him with a counteraccusation leveled against his opponents” who “sought to
discredit him personally by stressing his unusual physical appearance and its negative moral
implications” (p. 229).
Ch. 13, “‘He Must Increase, I Must Decrease’ (John 3:30): A Cultural and Social
Interpretation” looks at the notion of “limited good” and its relationship to envy and the
196 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

agonistic world of antiquity. Jerome H. Neyrey and Richard L. Rohrbaugh note that John’s
statement (John 3:30) was quite foreign to Mediterranean culture. John 3:22-30 lays out a
controversy between John the Baptist’s disciples and Jesus (and his disciples) and how the
former’s worth diminishes while Jesus’ reputation grows. Yet John himself does not see the
situation in terms of limited good. He will not engage in envy and already announced that
his purpose was to herald Jesus (John 1:15, 26-27, 30). Hence his most countercultural
statement recorded in John 3:30. On pp. 240-246 the authors give a host of examples of
what they see as evidence for “limited good” in antiquity, which especially focus on the
primary value of “honor”. It must be said, however, not all the samples they refer to are
convincing, but according to them the idea of “limited good” is “implied” (see also
summary and table of examples on p. 246). This is followed by them setting out the
relationship between “limited good” and envy (pp. 246-249) and placing John 3:22-30 in its
cultural context.
Ch. 14 looks at modal personality, contrasting the individualist society of “modern
Americans” with the “group orientated/collectivist” societies of the modern and ancient
Middle East. Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey’s study, “Ancient Mediterranean
Persons in Cultural Perspective: Portrait of Paul”, highlight the character of
collectivism, where, inter alia, group goals precede individual goals. People also see
themselves “sociologically” where basic personality derives largely from “generation,
geography, and gender, hence from ethnic characteristics that are rooted in the water, soil,
and air native to the ethnic group” (p. 259). In view of the rhetorical practice of the ancient
encomium, the authors contend that Paul “presented himself as the quintessential group-
orientated person” (p. 267), although it is not always clear how the encomiastic categories
excavated by the authors (pp. 268-273) serve to illustrate this. But the overall point is clear:
ancient personalities were group-orientated or collectivist personalities. They were not
evaluated in terms if individual psychology. They were anti-introspective and “other made”
persons, where being “normal” and “self-awareness” were dependent on being embedded in
the correct matrix of relationships.
As a whole this volume represents a powerpack of social-scientific criticism,
representing what really good scholarship can achieve. It deserves a status as a main source
of reference, both for students and scholars, as well as future social-scientific research. By
all means use it, learn from it, engage with it, and build on it. The book opens up the social
world of the NT and also invites refinement of existing methods and models, and we may
speculate, anticipate the discoveries of new ones.
Markus Cromhout, Research Associate at the Faculty of Theology,
University of Pretoria.

STRELAN, R., Luke the Priest. The Authority of the Author of the Third Gospel,
Burlington: Ashgate, 2008. Hardcover. ISBN 9780754662594. Pp 194.

With this study, Strelan aims to reconstruct the writer of the Third Gospel in terms of the
question who, or what, gave him the authority to interpret the Scriptures of Israel and the
traditions of Jesus and Paul in order to write Luke-Acts. Strelan’s point of departure is that it
is possible to reconstruct the author’s identity based on his particular portrait of Jesus and

Paul, since he portrayed Jesus and Paul in his own image and according to his own agenda.
His main thesis is that the author of Luke-Acts was a Jewish priest who had become a
follower of Jesus, and that his status as a priest gave him the authority to interpret the
traditions of Israel, Jesus and Paul (113). According to Strelan, Luke wrote like other Jewish
priests (for example Josephus, the Chronicler and the Teacher of Righteousness at Qumran)
who had transmitted, interpreted and guarded Israel’s history. Luke’s aim was a refined and
edited written version of his own oral performances of the Gospel for the benefit of his
student, Theophilus (12). Scholars therefore need to read Luke-Acts according to a priestly
view of history because Luke wanted to reveal how God had acted in history (18-19).
In ch. 1, Strelan states that we know practically nothing about the authors or primary
audiences of the Gospels (3). However, this does not mean that scholars should focus only
on the readers of the Gospels, as any knowledge about an author of a text should guide the
manner in which it is read (4). Strelan therefore agrees with Hengel that Luke-Acts does not
represent the collective view of a community, but rather that of an individual authoritative
teacher of one or more communities (7). It is clear that Luke, as author, exerted significant
control and authority in selecting, editing and constructing the tradition that he had received
Ch. 2 focuses on the authority of Luke-Acts in regards to question of authorship. While
modern readers tend to associate the authority of a written text with that of its author, it was
only in the second century that Christians began to associate the four Gospels with specific
authors with apostolic authority (11). Unlike the other Gospels, however, the Third Gospel
did not derive its authority from a community-linked tradition or the apostolic status of its
author, but rather from a single person, namely Paul. This resulted from Luke being
regarded as Paul’s mere travelling companion and biographer (88).
Ch. 3 reviews the status of Luke in modern scholarship. In summary, scholars in general
have regarded Luke as an editor or compiler dependent on other sources (e.g. Mark) and not
as a theologian in his own right (15). As an editor of the Pauline tradition, Luke is
furthermore not regarded as an astute theological interpreter of Paul, or as an accurate
historian of his ministry, and is therefore generally regarded as Paul’s inferior. Strelan,
however, reappraises the Luke-Paul relationship because he regards Luke as someone with
the authority to correct some of Paul’s ideas. According to Strelan, Luke did not misinterpret
Paul but he rather constructed a portrayal of Paul that agreed with his own theology (15).
According to Strelan, Paul did not have the status and authority to teach and transmit the
whole Jesus tradition, and therefore did not refer to the words and deeds of Jesus. Luke,
however, did have the authority, as he had followed all things about Jesus from the
beginning (Luke 1:3) (46). Luke was thus not inferior to Paul as an interpreter of the Jesus
tradition and could even have been the famous preacher to whom Paul refers in 2 Cor 8:18
In ch. 4, Strelan addresses the reason for Luke’s writing another Gospel. He argues that
Luke’s aim in writing Luke-Acts was to provide Theophilus with a stable, written narrative.
This would enable a safe, accurate, and orderly performance and reading of the oral tradition
that Theophilus had received from Luke (28). In chapter 5, Strelan discusses the authority
and responsibility to control, transmit and interpret the sacred traditions that priests, Levites
and elders had in Judaism (38). He places Luke, and possibly Theophilus, in the category of
teaching priests (45). As a teaching priest, Luke controlled and shaped the Jewish Scriptural
tradition, the Jesus tradition and the tradition about the apostles (Paul, Peter, Stephen and
198 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

Philip) (47). Strelan furthermore redefines the relationship between Luke and Theophilus.
According to Strelan, Theophilus was not Luke’s patron who was responsible for funding
and distributing his manuscript. Instead, Luke was Theophilus’ superior, his teacher, and his
elder (108). As guardian of ‘the things concerning Jesus’ that Luke had received, he passed
his knowledge on to Theophilus to ensure his accurate teaching of another generation or
community (53).
Ch. 6 reviews the relationship between oral and written traditions in the ancient world.
Strelan regards the preference for the oral tradition as overstated by most scholars (64).
According to Strelan, Jesus and his followers belonged rather to a religious culture that was
both an oral and a literate one (67).
In ch. 7, Strelan examines the traditions in the NT and of the Church fathers (to whom
the Third Gospel appears to be almost unknown) that identify Luke as the author of the
Third Gospel (74). Contrary to the traditional interpretation held since the fourth century,
Strelan does not regard Luke as a medical doctor (90), but rather as a priest responsible for
diagnosing the ritual status of others. Even if Luke practised as a medical doctor, it would
not rule out his being a priest, as priests also fulfilled a diagnostic function within the Jewish
cult. Strelan does, however, concede that the evidence for priests as healers in Judaism is
slight (102). The identification of Luke in Col 4:14 as the ‘beloved doctor’ by Paul is
understood by Strelan to be merely metaphorical (like his references to his co-workers as his
‘sons’, ‘mothers’ and even ‘fellow-soldier’) and should therefore not be taken as a literal
description of Luke’s occupation (70).
Ch. 8 focuses on a number of issues regarding the author of the Third Gospel in
contemporary scholarship (Was Luke the author? Was he a doctor? Was he a Jew or a
Gentile?). The argument for the reliability and authenticity of the tradition of Luke being the
author of Luke-Acts is considered by Strelan to be as strong as any other (101). However, he
dismisses the evidence for Luke being a doctor as slight (Col 4:14 is the only mention
thereof and Hobart’s claim of Luke’s using medical terminology has not survived scrutiny).
The ‘ethnic’ origin of Luke is crucial to Strelan’s claim that he was a priest (103), as a
number of scholars consider him a Gentile and not a converted Jewish priest (according to
Col 4:11-14 he was not circumcised). However, Strelan, with Denova, Selwyn and Jervell,
regards Luke as Jewish for two reasons: his knowledge of the Scriptures (and Jewish
methods of interpretation—147) and his authority to interpret the different traditions that he
had received (106).
In ch. 9, Strelan presents his thesis of Luke as a priest by analysing the authority of
priests after the destruction of the temple in Judaism and in early Christianity. After the
destruction of the temple, Jewish priests shifted their loyalty to the Torah and its
interpretation. They therefore derived their authority from the interpretation of the written
Torah (as did the priest governing the Qumran community) and not from the Temple’s
sacrificial system (123). According to Strelan, the position of priests within early
Christianity is less clear owing to a lack of sources. However, from Luke’s writings it is
clear that he had an interest in priestly people and was generally sympathetic to ordinary
priests who were disenchanted with the high priestly bureaucracy in Jerusalem (130). Luke
also describes Jesus as acting in a priestly manner by interpreting Scripture and by teaching,
blessing and judging. Jesus also focuses on a number of topics that were important to
priests: wealth, forgiveness, righteous living, joy, the temple, angels, festivals, hymns and

worship (133-6). As, for Strelan, Luke constructed Jesus in his own image, his depiction of
Jesus’ interest in priestly matters could imply that he was a priest himself (131-3).
In the penultimate three chapters of his study, Strelan focuses on how Luke as a priest
acted as an authoritative interpreter of Jewish Scripture (ch. 10), the Jesus tradition (ch. 11)
and of the traditions of Paul (ch. 12). He then ends with a brief conclusion. Strelan clearly
states that Luke was not only an editor of the traditions that he had received about Jesus. He
interpreted the traditions by arranging them in an order he thought appropriate, and by
focusing on the righteous teaching and practice of Jesus (which elevated the poor and
humble). Luke shows that he was not a mere disciple of Paul by downgrading Paul on a
number of issues when interpreting him (164).
All scholars interested in Luke-Acts must read and engage actively with Strelan’s study.
It contains a number of original suggestions about the author of Luke-Acts, the relationship
between Luke and Paul (as well as between Luke and Theophilus), and the position of
priests in early Christianity. Not all scholars will, however, be convinced by Strelan’s
argument that the author of Luke-Acts was a priest. For instance, it is debatable whether
Strelan has dealt adequately with Luke’s ethnic origin and his depiction as a medical doctor
according to Col 4:12-14, or with the relationship between Act’s version of the history of
Paul’s ministry and his extant letters. The question could also be raised whether being a
priest in early Christianity would have given an author any greater authority than that of the
ability to write.
Even if the main thesis of Luke as a priest is not decisively proven by Strelan (as he
himself acknowledges), his insightful investigation into the Luke-Acts author’s source of
authority to reinterpret the traditions of Israel, Jesus and Paul in an ancient setting deserves
serious reflection. For what description, other than that of a priest, would be more
appropriate of Luke (166)?
Marius Nel, Universiteit van Pretoria

SUGIRTHARAJAH, R. S., (ed.), Still at the Margins: Biblical Scholarship Fifteen Years
after Voices from the Margin. London: T&T Clark, 2008. Hardback ISBN-10: 0-567-03221-
3; ISBN-13: 978-0-567-03221-8. Pages i-x, 1-163.

“This volume grew out of ‘Still at the Margin: Biblical Scholarship Fifteen Years after
Voices from the Margin’, a special sessions held at the Annual Meeting of the Society of
Biblical Literature, Washington, in November 2006.” (p. ix). Sugirtharajah, as the editor of
the volume recalls how in the 1990’s the Council of SBL decided, after some uneasy
discussion, to establish a programme unit, ‘The Bible in Asia, Africa and Latin America’ so
that scholars from these regions could ‘come and learn from us’ (p. 1): it was ‘a way of
civilizing the “other”, …’ (p. 1). Since these beginnings a great deal has changed: ‘These
essays here try to register some of the intricate and constant negotiations that went on
between the mainstream and the margin’ (p. 2). His view for the way forward is for the
margins to ‘maintain a discriminating distance from the mainstream, use our own
perspectives, indigenous resources and questions, and reforge the reigning ideas and values
which the discipline cherishes until they become our own and effect transformation of the
original vision’ (p. 7): a question of subverting the system from within. The collection is
200 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

made up of eleven contributions: eight of the contributors are based in the US, two in the
UK, and one in Australia. Sugirtharajah writes about ‘Muddling Along at the Margins;
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza proposes ‘Transforming the Margin—Claiming Common
Ground: Charting a Different Paradigm of Biblical Studies; the study of Tat-Siong Benny
Liew has as title ‘When Margins Become Common Ground: Questions of and for Biblical
Studies. The series of titles continues: ‘ “Naturally Veiled and Half Articulate”: Scriptures,
Modernity and the Formation of African America (Vincent L Wimbush); ‘Margins Exposed:

Representation, Hybridity and Transfiguration (Victor Westhelle); ‘Unu ̒unu ki he loloto,

Shuffle Over to the Deep, into Island Spaced Reading’ (Jione Havea); ‘Jud(as)signing
Blame (J. Jayakiran Sebastian); ‘Majestic at the Margins’ (Mary Philip (Joy)); ‘Margins and
the Changing Spatiality of Power: Preliminary Notes’ (Mayra Rivera Rivera); ‘Abolitionist
Exegesis: A Quaker Proposal for White Liberals’ (Daniel L. Smith-Christopher); ‘Writing a
Bestseller in biblical Studies or All Washed Up on Dover Beach? Voices from the Margin
and the Future of (British) Biblical Studies (Ralph Broadbent). According to Sugirtharajah,
not much has changed in the attitude of the mainstream during these last fifteen years; at the
margins, however, there ‘have been several substantial changes. Some have been
encouraging, and others cause considerable concern’ (p. 9). He finds that there is a strong
tendency to ‘muzzle the reader, embalm the past and freeze the meaning of the text for ever’
(p. 10). The Bible has been taken over by interpreters who make it an instrument of
retaliation and violence (e.g. Bush, Blair). The margin has been become more and more
diversified and dispersed into smaller groups (margins), which then easily play into the
hands of the mainstream. Liberation theology has been taken over by the mainstream and
redefined ‘as bringing liberty, freedom and the fruits of the market economy to benighted
and oppressed peoples’ (p. 12). Two further shifts have been the arrival of the ‘Post’
(postcolonialism, postmodernism, …) and the diaspora of marginal interpreters. ‘Liberation
theology tried to substitute the god of the powerful with the biblical god of the poor, …
whereas postcolonialism makes the tenets, theology and ideology of the book messy,
awkward and complicated’ (p. 13). The diasporic marginals have developed agendas which
are far removed from the concrete struggles of the people at home: ‘alterity, border thinking,
body-politics, carnival, deconstruction, the end of history, and so forth’ (p.14). He predicts
that the mainstream approach to the Scriptures and even the religious approach will become
more and more sidelined by the popularity of other approaches and interests: ‘What
fascinates the common reader more than the spiritual upliftment provided by the Bible are
the machinations and manipulation that lay behind the religion which emerged from the
Bible’ (p. 16), or the fresh presentations of biblical characters in novels and films.
Furthermore, ordinary readers feel quite at ease to express their own reflections in
cyberspace: ‘What is clear is that one can do interpretation without the mediation of trained
biblical scholars and ecclesiastics … the ownership of the Bible and the art of biblical
interpretation are slowly changing hands’ (p. 17). This contribution by S. is clearly not
merely muddling along the margins but also disturbing the tranquility and security of the
mainstream. The paper by Schüssler Fiorenza puts forward a constructive challenge to the
model of the ‘margins’ and deserves special attention here. According to S.’… a dualistic

framing of the margins emerges in the introduction to the third edition of Voices from the
Margin which is constructed in oppositional terms: we find lined up on the one side
liberation hermeneutics, church, third world and ‘ordinary readers’ and on the other side
postcolonialism, academy and diasporic expert readers located in the first world’ (p. 24)
while the margin ‘is conceptualized as singular and unitary, as “third world” ‘ (p. 24). In
order to overcome this dichotomy S. proposes the use of paradigm criticism, in this case the
liberation or the emancipatory paradigm ‘that would ask for competency in demystifying
structures of domination’ (p. 25). In distinguishing paradigms S. seeks ‘to trace the shift in
hermeneutical perspective and interpretive community: (1) dogmatic-religious institutional,
(2) positivist scientific-academic institutional, (3) hermeneutic-cultural-academic and (4)
rhetorical-liberationist or emancipatory, academic and communal’ (p. 27). According to this
fourth paradigm, the biblical interpreter is understood as ‘a “public”, “transformative” agent
who is able to communicate with a variegated public and seeks to achieve personal, social
and religious transformation for justice and well-being’ (p. 31). The strategies of this
paradigm have to be able to uncover systems of domination and to mobilize towards
transformation, and have to join forces with the critical feminist interpretation for liberation,
‘which has nurtured the twin roots of critique and liberation’ (p. 32). According to S. it is
crucial for all minorities and marginalized voices to join forces in order to develop this
paradigm into an equal partner with the other three established paradigms. In order to
achieve this the fourth paradigm has to draw on the contributions of postcolonial criticism,
but she points out that ‘[b]ecause of its alliance with postmodernism and its academic
location in literature departments, the tendency has been to privilege the act of reading over
socio-political analysis. As a consequence postcolonial criticism has not sufficiently focused
on global structures of exploitation and domination’ (p. 36). Furthermore, although critical
feminist hermeneutics has not yet been included so far in the reading from the margin, it has
a very important contribution to make; it needs to be remembered how critical feminist
hermeneutics has worked hard to overcome the dualistic alternative, commonly associated
with postcolonial criticism, ‘either the Bible is liberationist or it is colonialist’ (p. 38). What
is needed for an effective voice from the margins to emerge, able to establish itself besides
the other three paradigms, is to expand the use of postcolonial criticism with both socio-
economic liberation hermeneutics and critical feminist hermeneutics. This collection of
essays puts us in touch with valuable contemporary reflection on how to strengthen biblical
scholarship at the margins.
Paul B Decock, University of KwaZulu-Natal /
St. Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara.

WILDER, TERRY L., Pseudonymity, the New Testament and Deception: An Inquiry into
Intention and Reception, Lanham: University Press of America, Broschiert, 2004. ISBN 0-
7618-2793-5, 47 $. Pp xi + 296 S.

Der vorliegende Band gehört zu einer ganzen Reihe neuerer Studien zur Pseudepigraphie in
der hellenistisch-römischen und jüdischen Antike sowie zur Diskussion des
pseudepigraphen Charakters urchristlicher Schriften. Einige dieser Studien stellen dabei mit
ganz unterschiedlichen Gründen Fragen an die oft mehr postulierte als gründich
202 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)

argumentierte Mehrheitsmeinung (vgl. z. B. A. D. Baum, Pseudepigraphie und literarische

Fälschung im frühen Christentum: Mit ausgewählten Quellentexten samt deutscher
Übersetzung, WUNT II.138; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001; vgl. meine Rez. in NT 47,
2005, 91-93). Zu dieser Gruppe gehört Wilders Untersuchung, die auf eine
Doktoraldissertation an der Universität Aberdeen, Schottland (1998; Betreuung B. S.
Rosner) zurückgeht und der Täuschungsabsicht von pseudepigraphen Schriften gilt. Widers
Absicht ist es to provide a fresh answer to the question: “If pseudonymous letters exist in the
New Testament, what can be said about their intention and reception?” Scholars disagree on
whether such works bearing the names of Christ’s apostels, if present, were written with the
intention to deceive their readers, and whether the readers of such works were deceived.
This impasse needs to be settled because how one answers this question ultimately has an
impact on both exegesis and canonicity (ix).
Nach einem Forschungsüberblick (1-34), der kaum über den Stand von 1998 hinausgeht
und die Diskussion nicht in allem korrekt widergibt (neuere Literatur und Kritik bei A. D.
Baum, ThLZ 132, 2007, 1208), Darstellung der möglichen Positionen und Beschreibung des
eigenen Vorgehens beleuchtet Wilder das Verhältnis von geistigem Eigentum,
Pseudonymität und dem Neuen Testament (35-73). Wilder fragt, ob es in der Antike ein
Verständnis von geistigem Eigentum gab und ob es Hinweise auf solches Eigentum oder
entsprechende Skrupel im NT gibt. Wilder trägt dafür mehrere Hinweise zusammen, für das
NT sind es 2 Thessalonicher 2.2; Wechsel in der Handschrift und die Notizen in der
Handschrift des Paulus (1 Kor 16.21; Phlm 19; Kol 4.18; 2 Thess 3.17) und Offenbarung
Dann vergleicht er die umstrittenen Paulusbriefe mit verschiedenen bekannten antiken
pseudepigraphen Briefen (75-121, griech.-röm., jüd., altkirchl.), um mögliche Affinitäten zu
entdecken („whether the disputed Pauline letters, if pseudonymous and non-deceptive, have
a historical and analogous precedent in antiquity”, 23). Wilder schließt, dass Pseudonymität
ohne Täuschungsabsicht angesichst einiger griech.-röm. pseudepigrapher Briefe prinzipiell
möglich ist.
Ein weiteres Kapitel beleuchtet die bekannten Reaktionen auf apostolische
Pseudepigraphen (123-63; darin auch Diskussion des Kriteriums der Apostolizität für die
Kanonizität): „The early church fathers’ acceptance or rejection of pseudonymous
documents will either favour the view that such works were viewed as deceptive or it will
support the position that they were not deceptive” (23). Diskutiert werden die Paulusakten,
der 3. Korintherbrief, der Brief an die Laodizäer und an die Alexandriner, Serapion und das
Petrusevangelium und andere apostolische Pseudepigraphen, ferner altkirchliche Aussagen.
Wilder folgert:

… the early church did not readily accept pseudonymity. Generally, where a work
was known to be pseudonymous, the early church rejected and excluded it from the
writings they recognized as normative. … both the authorship of writings and their
content were important criteria … the early church did not knowingly allow either
pseudo-apostolic or heretical works to be read publicly in the churches … evidence is
lacking for a convention of pseudonymity which existed among orthodox Christians …
one was not to violate a recognized corpus of literature by pseudonymously enlarging this
body with inauthentic works … Christians did not regard the fictive use of another
person’s name with indifference (146f).

Ein Exkurs untersucht die Rezeption der Weisheit Salomons in der Alten Kirche (148-
53), da die Erwähnung dieses Buches im Kanon Muratori gelegentlich als Hinweis gewertet
wird, dass Pseudonymität nicht täuschen wollte und altkirchlich akzeptiert war. Dagegen
verweist Wilder, ohne ganz zu überzeugen, auf die Unterschiede zwischen der Weisheit und
ntl. Briefen, die unter den Namen des Petrus oder Paulus geschrieben wurden.
Ferner untersucht Wilder die Rolle und Autorität der Apostel in der alten Kirche und im
NT (165-216). Sie erscheinen in Entsprechung zu den atl. Propheten, als die Repräsentanten
Christi und als Zeugen. Ein zweiter Exkurs gilt dem 9. Brief des Salvian aus dem 5. Jh. und
seinen Implikationen für Pseudonymität (194-96;„… it gives some insights into the thinking
of a pseudonymous author who was discovered, and may shed some light on the force that
moved pseudonymous authors to write under the names of the apostles”, 24).
Abschließend widmet sich Wilder den umstrittenen Paulusbriefen, die er von ihrer
Funktion mit der Funktion anderer antiker Briefe vergleicht (217-43). Er schließt „that the
use of Paul’s name in a pseudonymous epistle was not generally compatible with the
adapted function of a letter in Greco-Roman antiquity - specifically, with that of a genuine
apostolic letter” (24). Dem folgt eine Zusammenfassung (“If pseudonymous letters are
present in the NT, enough evidence exists to say that they were written to deceive their
readers; moreover their presence in the NT is prima facie indication that they succeeded in
doing so”, 258) und Schlussfolgerungen (245-65). Streckenweise ist Wilders Studie
schwerfällig zu lesen, da er um der Argumentation willen immer wieder im schnellen
Wechsel Positonen vertritt, die er an anderen Stellen hinterfragt.
Spannend wäre gewesen, wenn Wilder neben den Paulusbriefen (der Titel the New
Testament trifft nicht zu, es geht fast ausschließlich um das Corpus Paulinum) in seine
insgesamt überzeugenden Überlegungen zu Täuschung und Unschuld antiker
Pseudepigraphie auch die Verfasserzuschriften der Evangelien und die Apostelgeschichte
mit einbezogen hätte. Insgesamt bietet Wilder eine anregende Untersuchung, die zeigt, dass
viele der bekannten Argumente für oder auch gegen Pseudepigraphie neu bedacht werden
müssen. Die oft wiederholte These, dass Pseudepigraphie in der Antike allgemein, im
Urchristentum und in der alten Kirche als unschuldig und durchschaubar akzeptiert war und
ohne jede Täuschungsabsicht geschah, kann in dieser Form angesichts von Wilders
Ergebnissen (und anderer neuerer Studien) nicht aufrecht erhalten werden. Zu fragen wäre,
ob man angesichts der Komplexität der Pseudepigraphie, die diese und andere Studien
zeigen, und anderer neuer Studien zur Stichhaltigkeit stilistischer Argumenten sowie zur
Bedeutung von Sekretären und der Rolle der Mitarbeiter des Paulus bei der Abfassung der
Briefe, die Gründe für eine tatsächliche paulinische Verfasserschaft der Deuteropaulinen
neu erwägen sollte. Sie könnten zu einem historisch plausibleren Bild führen als manche
kritische Rekonstruktionen.
Christoph Stenschke, Forum Wiedenest, Bergneustadt, Germany/
Department of New Testament, University of South Africa, P O Box 392, Pretoria, 0003.
Akper, Dr GI, Reformed Theological Seminary, Mkar, P.M.B. 204 Gboko, Benue State, Nigeria.
Bohnen, Mr J, 13 Chamberlain Street, Kingwilliamstown, 5601.
Bosman, Ds MJ, Stellastraat 158, Waterkloof, Pretoria, 0181. (w) 012 460 9555 (h) 012 460 9500.
Botha, Dr JE, Posbus 11738, Queenswood 0121. (h) 012 333 9891 (c) 083 289 0190.;
Botha, Dr PH, Private Bag X280, Kranskop KZN, 3268 Tel/Fax 032-481 5508 (w); 032-481 5775 (h);
(s) 082-9655851
Botha, Prof PJJ, Dept. Nuwe Testament en Vroeg-Christelike Studie, UNISA, Posbus 392, UNISA,
0003. (w) 012 429 4062 (h) 012 803 0933.
Bredenkamp, Dr DSM, (Talamatie 9, Dr Voslooweg, Bartlett); Posbus 15062, Impalapark, 1472.
Breytenbach, Prof Dr Cilliers, Institut fur Christentum und Antike, Humboldt Univ, Unter den Linden 6,
D10099 Berlin, Germany. Tel (w) +949 30 24753602 (f) +949 30 24753-637.
Bruce, Mrs PF, School of Theol & Religion, Univ of KwaZulu-Natal, Priv Bag X01, Scottsville 3209.
(w) 033 260 5559 (h) 033 386 5703.
Campbell, Rev D N, 5 Cameron Toll Gardens, Edinburgh, EH16 4TF, Scotland. UK.
Chetty, Dr Irvin. Centre for Theology and Religion, University of Fort Hare, Private Bag X1314, Alice
Cloete, D, Beromasingel 23, Beroma Landgoed, Bellville 7530.
Combrink, Ds HJB, 22 Jalan Haji Rafaie, 11200 Tanjung Bunga, Penang, Malaysia. (h) +60 4 898 2780
(c) +60 12 598 2730.;
Combrink, Prof HJB, Posbus 1129, Stellenbosch 7599. (h) 021 883 3920. (s) 083 235 0163.
Craffert, Prof PF, Dept Nuwe Testament en Vroeg-Christelike Studie, UNISA, Posbus 392, UNISA
0003. (w) 012 429 4060 (h) 012 667 4457 (c) 083 324 4485.
Cromhout, Dr M, PO Box 1078, Sunninghill, 2157. (w) 011 622 3811 (h) 011 807 0434 (c) 082
574 1549 (f) 086 688 0871
Cronjé, Past SW, P O Box 11016, Die Hoewes, 0163. (h) 012 667 2630 (c) 083 287 2498.
D’Helt, Alexandre, 17 Avenue F Roosevelt, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. +32 472 637259.
Dannhauser, EH, Reierweg 112, Atlasville, 1459. (c) 082 900 0963.
David, Fr. Sylvester OMI, St. Joseph’s Theological Institute, P.O.Box 100464, Scottsville, 2309. (w)
033-343 5930 (h) 033 396 5177. /
Decharneux, Prof. B, Place de l’Empereur 101, 1470 Genappe, Belgium. Office: Université Libre de
Bruxxels, Av. F. Roosevelt 17 1050, Brussels, Belgium. (h) +32 067 771132 (c) 00322 6503 849.
De Villiers, Prof PGR, Rozenhof 202, Dorpstraat 165, Stellenbosch 7600. (c) 083 259 5039 (f) 021 886

Neotestamenica 44.1 (2010) 204-210

© New Testament Society of South Africa

De Wet, Pastor Chris, Tramwaystr 205, Kenilworth, Johannesburg 2190. (c) 072 598 8711.
De Wet, Dr B W, 137E Market St, Box 5, New Hampshire, OH 45870, USA
Decock, Prof PB, St Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara, Private Bag 6004 Hilton 3245. (w) 033 343
Dijkhuizen, Ms P, PO Box 11217, Queenswood, 0121. (w) 012 429 4372 (h) 012 333 2793 (c) 084 928
Domeris, Dr. W. R, St Albans Anglican Church, 5 Durham Rd, Vincent, East London 5245.
Draper, Prof JA, School of Religion & Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01,
Scottsville 3209. (w) 033 260 5700 (h) 033 342 0623 (c) 082 076 8898 (f) 033 260 5858.
Du Plessis, Prof Emeritus IJ, Northside 431, Lynnwood 0081. (h) 012 361 2523.
Du Plessis, Dr J, Posbus 3239, Tygerpark. 7536 (w&h) 021 976 1185.
Du Plooy, Dr GPV, Posbus 67821, Bryanston 2021. (w&h) 011 463 2254.
Du Rand, Prof JA, Dept Bybelkunde, University of Johannesburg, Posbus 524, Aucklandpark 2006. (w)
011 489 2387 (h) 011 678 0804 (f) 011 489 3326. /
*Du Toit, Prof AB, Posbus 92345, Mooikloof, Pretoria 0059. (h) 012 991 2406.
Du Toit, Dr DS, Barnimstrasse 32, 15569 Woltersdorf, Germany.
Du Toit, Ms. M, Departement Antieke Tale, Universiteit van Pretoria. 012 420 3658 /
Ekem, Prof DJ, Trinity Theological Seminary, PO Box LG 48, Legon, Accra, Ghana. david-
England, Mr FE, P O Box 71, Kalk Bay 7990.
Fansaka, Prof B, Diocèse de Kenge, BP 8631 Kinshasa I, Rép. Dém. CONGO
Friedl, Dr A, Bahnzeile 10A/4, A-2130 Mistelbach, Austria/Europe,,
Fuhrmann, Dr S, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Neutestamentliches Seminar, Universitätsstrasse
13-17, D-48143 Münster, Germany. (w) +49 (0) 251 8322 535 (p) +49 (0) 30 4423 923
Gava, Rev DA, Rev, Theological College of Nothern Nigeria (TCNN), PO Box 64, Bukuru 930008,
Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria (c/o Draper, Prof JA, School of Religion & Theology, University of
KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209). (c) 084 602 3220.
Genade, Pastor A, Bellville Baptist, 25 Louis Trichard Street, Parow, 7500.
Germiquet, Rev Dr Eddie A, Ministry Secretary, Uniting Presbyterian Church in SA, PO Box 96188,
Brixton 2019. (w) 011 339 2471 (f) 011 3396938 (c) 084 364 9348.
Go, Dr Byung Chan, c/o Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, 7600.
Goede, H. School for Biblical Sciences and Biblical Languages, North-West Univ, Potchefstroom 2520.
POBox 19439, Noordbrug, 2522. (h) 018 2991607.
Gwala, Pastor M, Helderberg College, PO Box 22, Somerset West 7129. 021 850 7609.
*Hartman, Prof L, Tuvangsvagen 4, SE-756 45 Uppsala Sweden.
Haug, Mr NA, PO Box 2280, Hillcrest, 3650. (t) 031 765 3195 (c) 083 300 5655 (f) 031 765 6249.
Heldsinger, Rev SA, 22 Klipstraat, Roodepoort 1724. (h) 011 763 1566 (w) 011 763 7355 (c) 082 5760
Hendricks, Dr GP, PO Box 427, Groenkloof, 0027. (w) 012 429 4638; (c) 079 3051451.
206 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)
Hoffman, CH, University of Stellenbosch, 171 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, 7600. (w) 021 808 3261.
*Horsley, Prof R A, 19 Park Lane, Jamaica Plain, Boston MA 02130, USA. (#) 001 617 524 7305,
Ito, Prof H, 9-1-706, Kita-aramicho, Kinugasa, Kita Ku, Kyoto City, 603-8316, Japan
Jacobs, Ds LD, Posbus 415, Wellington 7654. (h) 021 873 1215 (c) 082 413 4313.
Jacobs, Prof MM, Posbus 37732, Faerie Glen 0043. (w) 012 429 4492 (h) 012 991 0277.
Janse van Rensburg, Prof F, Skool vir Bybelwetenskappe en Antieke Tale, Fakulteit Teologie,
Noordwes-Universiteit, Potchefstroom 2520. (w) 018 299 1849 (h) 018 293 0899.
Jeong, Mr J-Y, 15 Hochland Humphry Simes Cresc. Pentagon Park, Bloemfontein 9301, (w)051
4363529 (cel) 0723441644
Jordaan, Prof GJC, Skool vir Bybelwetenskappe en Antieke Tale, Fakulteit Teologie, Noordwes-
Universiteit, Potchefstroom 2520. (w) 018 299 1609.
Jordaan, Dr PJ, Skool vir Bybelwetenskappe en Antieke Tale, Fakulteit Teologie, Noordwes-
Universiteit, Potchefstroom 2520; P.O. Box 19510, Noordbrug 2522. (w) 018 299 1602.
Kalengyo, Dr EM, Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology, Uganda
Christian University, PO Box 4, Mukono, Uganda. (w) 00256 414 290828 (h) 00256 414 290765 (f)
00256 414 290800 (c) 00256 77 4067702
Kim, Pastor MS, 850-37 BangBae4Dong, SeochoGu, Seoul, South Korea, 137-064. or
*Klauck, Prof. Hans-Josef, Swift Hall 306D, 1025 E 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Kok, Dr Kobus. Senior lecturer, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002. (c) +27
(0)82 4644127; (fax) +27 (0)12 4204016; (o) +27 (0)12 420 2358;
Lategan, Prof BC, STIAS, P B X1 Matieland Stellenbosch 7602. Tel (w) 021 808 2185 (f) 021 808
2184 (c) 083 635 6175.
Le Roux, E, Univ of Pretoria, Postnet suite 831, P/B X4, Menlopark 0102. (c) 083 503 4262
Le Roux, Prof JH, Dept Ou Testament, Fak. Teologie, Univ Pretoria 0002. (w) 012 420 2358 (h) 012
460 8623 (f) 012 420 4016.
Le Roux, Ds De la Harpe V., Kmdt Senekalstr 10, Dan Pienaar, Bloemfontein, 9301. (k) 051-430-4274
(c) 083-232-1051.
Letseli, T. Helderberg College, P.O. Box 22, Somerset West 7129.
*Lieu, Prof JM, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9BS.
Loba - Mkole, Dr Jean-Claude, United Bible Societies, P O Box 42 726-00100, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel
+254 –722 240367
Loubser, Ds GMH, Posbus 5059, Boksburg-Noord 1460. (w&h) 011 917 9671 (f) 0866825847. /
Lombard M, 5 Lee Park Road, Fish Hoek 7975. (w) 021 7824721 (c) 083 2313128,
Lupieri, Prof EF, Via Zorutti 22, 33100 Udine, Italy. (w) +39 432 556657 (h) +39 432 512422 (f) +39

432 556669.

Malan, Dr FS, Montana Aftree-Oord 178, Klippanweg 900, Montana 0186. Tel (h) 012 547 6943 cell:
082 578 9111.;
Malan, Ds Japie P. Posbus 7077, Secunda, 2302. (h) 017 689 2001, (s) 082 654 4707, (w) 017 689
Maleya-Mautsa, Laura. 27 Woodgate, Northwood, Harare, Zimbabwe. (c) +263 91421 921.
*Malherbe, Prof AJ, 71 Spring Garden Street, Hamden, CT 06517-1913, USA. (h) +1 203 2813634.
McDonnell, Br Kevin, Catholic Bible College, P O Box 1954, Rosettenville 2130. (h) 011 435 5166 (c)
082 646 9003
*Menken, Prof M J J, Faculty of Catholic Theology, University of Tilburg, P O Box 80101, 3508 TC
Utrecht, The Netherlands. +31 30 2533796
Meyer, Dr Wilhelm H. School of Language, Literature and Linguistics, University of KwaZulu-Natal,
Pietermaritzburg Campus, Private Bag X01, SCOTTSVILLE 3209.
Mlilo, Dr L G, St Joseph’s Theological Institute, Private Bag 6004, Hilton, 3245. (w) 033 343 5920 (h)
033 344 1888 (c) 083 627 6172.
Mollett, Mrs. M. Catholic Bible College, PO Box 1954, Rosettenville 2130. (w&f) 011 435 7997 (c)
082 456 4034.; Website:
More, Jonathan. George Whitefield College, PO Box 64, Muizenberg 7950. .;
Mouton, Prof AEJ, Fakulteit Teologie, Univ Stellenbosch, P/B X1, Matieland 7602. Tel (w) 021 808
3255 (h) 021 981 2631.
Moruthane, Rev SW, P.O Box 375,Meadowlands, 1852. . (h) 011 888 7201 (c) 083 758 2585.
Mothoagae, Itumeleng Daniel, 2239 Khapola Street, Mapetla Ext, PO Chianello 1818.;
*Moxnes, Prof Halvor, Faculty of Theol. Univ. of Oslo, Blindern N-0135, Oslo, Norway. (h)
4722601120, (w) 4722850318.
Moyise, Prof SP, University of Chichester, College Lane, Chichester PO19 6PE, United Kingdom.
Mtata, Rev K, (School of Religion & Theology, Univ of KwaZulu-Natal, P/B X01, Scottsville 3209)
Sägenförth 17, Haus II, Hermannsburg Mission, D-29320, Hermannsburg, Germany, .,
Mukansengimana, RN, PO Box 13275, Cascades, 3202.
Mundalamo, Rev NI, PO Box 224, Seshego, 0742. (p) 015 223 2051 (c) 072 382 3729.
Mwaniki, Rev LM, School of Religion & Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, P/B X01,
Scottsville, 3209. (c) 079 665 8326. or
Nagel, P, Posbus 578, Lanseria 1748. (h) 011 701 2117 (c) 083 263 0433 (f) 011 659 2282.
Negrov Dr A, St Petersburg Christian University, 198020 St Petersburg Prospek Narvskii 13”B”, P O
Box 211, Russia
Nel, Dr MJ, Posbus 80862, Doornpoort 0017. (w) 012 547 1041 (c) 083 973 1428. marius-
Nell, Dr IA, Hanepootsingel 10, Sonstraal, Durbanville 7550. (h) 021 975 3460 (s) 083 400 3999.
208 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)
Nobilio, Dr Fabien G., C.I.ER.L, Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) CP 108, Avenue F D Roosevelt,
17, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium. Tel (w) +32 (0) 2650 3683, c: +32 (0) 477 252464
Nortje-Meyer, Prof SJ, Dept Bybelkunde, Univ Johannesburg, Posbus 524, Aucklandpark 2006. Tel (w)
011 489 2733 (h) 011 958 2459 (c) 082 716 5923 (f) 011 489 3326.
Ogumbanwo, Very Rev Babs F, PO Box 07, Sagamu, Ogum State, Nigeria. (p) +27 72 919 8665. or
*Okure, Prof Teresa, New testament and Gender Hermeneutics, Catholic Institute of West Africa
(CIWA), PO Box 499, Port Harcourt 50001, Nigeria. (c) _234 802 8341699, +234 805 9891675.,
Oliphant, Dr A, Weybridgelaan 12, Weybridgepark, Port Elizabeth 6070. (w) 041 381 1706 (h) 082 773
*Painter, Prof J (John), St Mark’s School of Theology, Charles Sturt University, 15 Blackall Street,
Barton ACT 2600, Australia. (phone) 61 (0)2 6273 1572 (fax) 61 (0)2 6273 4067.
Pillay, Dr Miranda. Department of Religion and Theology, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag
X17, Bellville 7535. (w) 021 9592201
Potgieter, Dr J, NGK Lynnwoodrif, Posbus 72574, Lynnwoodrif, 0040. (h) 012 807 4940 (w) 012 348
5135 (c) 083 456 9138. Webwerf:
Pretorius, Prof Emeritus EAC, John Calitzstraat 36, Hennenman 9445. Tel (h) 057 573 2360 (c) 073
407 6246.
Punt, Prof J, Dept of Old & New Testament, Fac Theology, 171Dorp Street, Stellenbosch Univ,
Stellenbosch 7600. (w) 021 808 2615 (f) 021 808 3251.
Ranarivelo, Rev JS, School of Religion & Theology, Univ of KwaZulu-Natal, P/B X01, Scottsville
3209. (c) 084 378 9940.
Reinstorf, Dr DH, 10 Van Gogh St, Panorama 7500. (w) 021 9303734 (f) 021 9303734 (c) 083 440
9498. and
Riekert, Prof SJPK, Dept Bybel en Godsdienskunde, UVS, P B 339, Bloemfontein 9300. (w) 051 401
2617 (h) 051 446 2138 (f) 051-4489203.
*Roberts, Prof Emeritus JH, Posbus 92, Port Edward 4295. (h) 039 311 3975 (c) 082 377
*Rowland, Prof C, Dean Ireland Prof of Exegesis of Holy Scripture, Queens College, Oxford OX1
4AW, England. (p) 01865 279168, (f) 01865 790819
Saddington, Prof DB, SLLS: Classica, Univ of Witwatersrand WITS 2050.
Scheffler, Prof, EH, Dept Old Testament & Ancient Near Eastern Studies, UNISA, Posbus 392,
UNISA, 0003. (c) 083 263 4385.
*Schröter Prof. Dr. Jens, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Theologische Fakultät, Burgstraße 26, D-
10178 Berlin, Germany, phone: 49 (0)30 2093-5959; fax: 49 (0)30 2093-5822; e-mail:
Smit, Prof JA, School of Religion & Theology Univ of KwaZulu-Natal, P/Bag X54001, Durban, 4000.
Tel (w) 031 204 4343, (h) 031 267 0291.
Snyman, Prof AH, Posbus 28304, Danhof 9301. (h) 051 436 3405.
Snyman, Prof GF, Dept Old Testament & Ancient Near Eastern Studies, UNISA, PO Box 392, UNISA,
0003. (w) 012 429 4711/4642 (h) 012 658 5004 (f) 012 429 3332 (c) 072 212 8089.

Song, JY, P O Box 13039, Noordstad 9302 (h) 051 436 7333 (c) 072 488 8660.
Speckman, Prof MT. Dean of Students, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002. (w) 012 420 2371 (f) 012
362 5172.
Stander, Prof HF, Antieke Tale, Universiteit van Pretoria, Pretoria 0002. (w) 012 420 2691 (h) 012 361
Stenschke, Prof CW, Bahnhofstrasse 1, 51702 Bergneustadt, Germany. ++49(0) 2261– 91 45 85
Steyn, Prof GJ, Dept New Testament, Fac Theology, Univ of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002. (w) 012 420 2358
(h) 012 346 4930.
*Suggit, Canon Prof Emer JN, 215 Silvermine Village, Private Bag 1, Noordhoek 7979. (t) 021 789
1892 (f) 021 789 2200.,
Swart, Prof GJ Dept Antieke Tale Univ Pretoria Pretoria 0002. (w) 012 420 2762 (h) 012 804 8285 (f)
012 420 4008.
Szesnat, Dr H, East Anglian Ministerial Training Course, 5 Pound Hill, Cambridge CB3 0AE, United
Kingdom. (w) 0944 1206-820945 (f) 0944 1223 741027.
Taylor, Ms. B, 9 Fountain Road, Bergvleit, 7945. South Africa,
Taylor, Prof NH, 8 Golf Road, Clarkston G76 7LZ, Scotland, /
Thom, Prof JC, Dept of Ancient Studies, Univ of Stellenbosch, P/B X1, Matieland 7602. (w) 021 808
3137 (h) 021 886 4754 (f) 021 808 3480.
Tolmie, Prof DF, Dept Nuwe Testament, Univ Vrystaat, Posbus 339, Bloemfontein 9300. (w) 051 401
2667 (h) 051 522 2929 (c) 083 450 5412 (f) 051 401 3508.
Tshehla, Dr MS, Department of New Testament and Early Christian Studies, UNISA, PO Box 392,
UNISA 0003. (w) 012 429 4387(c) 083 650 5256.
Van Aarde, Prof AG, Dept Nuwe Testament, Fakulteit Teologie, Universiteit van Pretoria, Pretoria
0002. (w) 012 420 2399 (h) 012 47 4067.
Van den Heever, Prof GA, Dept. Nuwe Testament en Vroeg-Christelike Studie, UNISA, Posbus 392,
UNISA 0003. (w) 012 429 4429 (h) 012 430 7905 (f) 012 429 3332.
Van der Bergh, RH, Posbus 13447, Hatfield, 0028. (c) 083 671 9073.;
Van der Merwe, Prof DG, Kotielaan 189, Murrayfield 0184. (w) 012 429 4430 (h) 012 803 3092.
Van der Walt, S P, Posbus 11066, Rynfield 1514. (h & w) 011 849-6696 (s) 082 920 1601.
Van der Watt, Prof JG, Dept Nuwe-Testamentiese Wetenskap, Fakulteit Teologie, Univ van Pretoria
Pretoria 0002. Tel (w) 012 420 2384 (h) 012 991 3482 (f) 012 991 3482. ,
Van Deventer, Dr HJ, Posbus 5, Wellington, 7654. (w) 021 864 8225 (h) 021 873 7914 (s) 072 433
0085 (f) 021 864 8250.
Van Schalkwyk-Botha, Mrs S, PO Box 50294, Hercules, 0030. (w) 012 429 4681 (c) 072 428 1954 (f)
012 429 3332.
Van Zyl, Prof Hermie C, Hoof: Dept Nuwe Testament / Head: Dept of New Testament, Fakulteit
Teologie / Faculty of Theology, Universiteit van die Vrystaat / University of the Free State, Posbus
/ P O Box 339, BLOEMFONTEIN, 9300 Suid-Afrika / South Africa, Tel: +27 (0)51
401 3023/2667 (w); 436 4567 (h), Faks / Fax: +27 (0)51 401 3508, Sel / Mobile: 083 697 5695, E-
pos / E-mail: (werk / office), (huis / home)
Venter, Diederick Johannes, Manserstraat 225, Meyerspark 0184. 012 803 6868; (s) 082 784 5826.
210 Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010)
Vergeer, Dr WC, PO Box 1627, Rant-En-Dal, 1751. (p) 011 954 5170.
Viljoen, Prof FP, North-West University, Van Graanstraat 32, Potchefstroom 2531. (w) 018 299 1842
(h) 018 294 6746 (f) 018 2991841.
Viviers, Prof H, Dept Bybel- en Godsdiens, Universiteit van Johannesburg,, Posbus 524, Aucklandpark
2006. (w) 011 559 2730 (f) 011 559 3326; (h) 011 678 3985.
Vorster, Prof JN, Dept New Testament and Early Christian Studies, UNISA, PO Box 392, UNISA,
0003. (w) 012 429 4024. or
Wanamaker, Prof CA, Dept of Religious Studies, UCT, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701. (w) 021 650
3455 (h) 021 531 0101 (c) 083 632-4401.
Warmback, Rev Dr Andrew E, 16 Padfield Road, Pinetown, 3610. (w) 031 305 6002 (h) 031 310 3541.
Waweru, Rev Dr HM, PO Box 247, VMKT 00621, Nairobi, Kenya.
Wendland, Dr ER, P O Box 310091, Lusaka, Zambia. +9260 1 281010.
Wessels, Dr GF, Gousblomstraat 16, Blomtuin, Bellville 7530. (h) 021 919 5903 (c) 083 232 0960.
Wessels, JM, Dutch Reformed Church, Lobatse, P O Box 38, Nietverdiend 2874. (w) 09267 533 0521
(h) 09267 717 55055 (c) 083 285 4567.;
West, Prof GO, School of Religion & Theology, Univ of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville
3209. (w) 033 260 5232 (h) 033 386 7335 (f) 033 260 5858.
Wilson, Rev Dr Alistair I, Dumisani Theological Institute, P O Box 681, King William’s Town, 5600.
043 6424737 (c) 082 3000 685
Wilson, Dr MW, P O Box 64788, Virginia Beach VA 23467-4788, USA.
Wolmarans, Prof JLP, Dept of Greek and Latin Studies, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524,
Aucklandpark 2006. (w) 011 4892737 (h) 011 7264667 (c) 083 717 3320.
Yorke, Dr. Gosnell L, School of Graduate Studies, Administrative Block, Suite 1, Northern Caribbean
University, Mandeville, Jamaica. (876) 523-2235 Office, (876) 471-4927 Cell
Zuiddam, Dr BA, 83 Chris Street, Prospect Vale 7250, TAS, Australia.

* Honorary Members of the NTSSA