restricted access Chapter 1: A Canonical History of the New Testament Catholic Epistle Collection
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29 CHAPTER ONE A Canonical History of the New Testament Catholic Epistle Collection The central goal of this chapter is to produce a thorough account of the canonical formation of the CE collection. Though assumptions about its development abound in introductory works, and a number of shorter summaries can be found here and there in more scholarly texts, a detailed analysis of all the issues involved is required.1 The following chapter will begin by considering the early development of the CE collection among patristic sources, then examine manuscript evidence for the collection, continue with a close analysis of the canon lists at the end of the canonizing process, and end with preliminary conclusions about the historical formation and canonical function of the collection. As was intimated in the introduction, this chapter will focus on the development of the collection itself and not on the establishment of the terminus ad quem for its constituent letters. Even so, tracing the patristic use of NT texts is an uncertain endeavor, for church fathers do not always quote their sources in such a way that knowledge and use of a particular text can be firmly established. To borrow Richard Hays’s description of intertextual reference, the “volume” of such references can vary widely. 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 1 As I was writing this chapter, J. Schlosser was writing one of his own. See his “Le Corpus Épîtres des Catholiques,” in The Catholic Epistles and the Tradition, ed. J. Schlosser (BETL 176; Leuven: Leuven Universtiy Press, 2004), 3–41. Nienhuis.Paul.indd 29 3/5/07 3:25:17 PM 30 NOT BY PAUL ALONE 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. As we near the vanishing point of the echo, it inevitably becomes difficult to decide whether we are really hearing an echo at all, or whether we are only conjuring things out of the murmurings of our own imaginings.2 There is an unavoidably subjective aspect to any judgment of patristic use that does not involve direct quotation, and any attempt to itemize such use in the service of a developmental account of canon formation is fraught with difficulty. This is especially the case with determining the use of the letter of James before Origen, since we possess no direct quotations and are limited to evaluating supposed allusions and echoes. As of yet, there is no scholarly agreement as to exactly how one determines the use of an earlier text by a later writer, or for that matter what differentiates a quotation from an allusion or an echo.3 For our purposes, a quotation will refer to instances in which a writer directly quotes a text (evidenced by nearly exact terminological correspondence), along with either a clear citation formula or some form of direct reference to the author. Allusion is a “covert, implied, or indirect reference”4 to an earlier text, which is intended to remind an audience (consciously or unconsciously) of a tradition or text with which they are presumed to have some measure of acquaintance. Finally, an echo refers to those instances where the possibility of an intentional reference exists, but the parallel is so inexact that it remains beyond our ability to determine with anything approaching confidence. With these definitions in mind, my study will resist the temptation to compile long lists of supposed allusions to and echoes of James from patristic writers as evidence that the letter was known and used before Origen.5 There are numerous ways of accounting for such parallel material in ancient texts apart from automatically assuming the writer is in some way directly dependent on our letter.6 Even if a parallel were to be firmly established, it is often difficult if not impossible to 2 R. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 23. 3 See the helpful survey in A. Gregory, The Reception of Luke and Acts in the Period before Irenaeus (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 1–20. For the purposes of this study, I will follow an adapted version of the criteria set forward by M. Thompson in his 1991 monograph, Clothed with Christ: The Example and Teaching of Jesus in Romans 12.1–15.13...