Matthew Bates (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame), currently Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University, has provided us with a fine discussion of Pauline use of the OT in his The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation. I received a review copy from Baylor press a few months back, and I’m finally getting around to posting my thoughts.

Over the last few decades the NT use and interpretation has garnered a growing level of interest, and Bates wades into a discussion dominated by some of the biggest names in Pauline scholarship–Richard Hays, Francis Watson, Christopher Stanley, Steve Moyise and Ross Wagner.  While not changing the whole tenor of the conversation, Bates contribution effectively widens the scope of evidence and provides a new lens on some of Paul’s uses of scripture.

A Brief Summary

Chapter 1.  Bates thoroughly lays out the history of research into Paul’s use of the OT.  In fact this is one of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve read in any dissertation/monograph.  Though informed about the issues, I wasn’t previously aware of some of the nuances of various approaches, so this was quite helpful.  He ultimately works towards two deficiencies in the field.  The first, modeled by Watson, is focusing solely on Jewish comparators.  The second relates to Hays’ limited employment of Bahktin, whose work calls for a consideration of the polysemous nature of texts in their original context and later contexts.  Hays, he says, focuses on the polysemous nature of texts, but he doesn’t take into account later contexts.  Accordingly, he calls for a “diachronic intertextuality” in which the interpretive methods of later post-Pauline interpreters are brought into the frame of comparison, rather than merely Paul and his contemporaries.

Chapter 2. Here the importance of scripture for Paul in forming his basic gospel narrative is the focus.  Rather than picking Pauline passages that directly quote scripture, Bates chooses two passages where Paul summarizes his key message (in “protocreeds”): 1 Cor 15.3-11 and Rom 1.1-6.  In both these passages, which receive detailed exegesis, Bates shows that the narrative of the Messiah is one that Paul sees as developing from his interpretation of scripture.   He summarizes the details of his exegesis by developing a 12-stage narrative in two sections: stages 1-8 relate to the story of Christ and 9-12 relate to apostolic mission arising out of the Christ event.  Though Bates doesn’t use these terms, it seems that he is detailing what Hays in his later revision of his work on intertexuality (see Conversion) would describe as a christocentric and ecclesiotelic model of interpretation.  Bates uses the terms kerygma and apostolic to capture this.

Chapter 3. Bates next brings in the results from study of rhetorical handbooks to explain how scriptures would be employed to support Paul’s apostolic kerygma.  Bates’ intention is to dismantle the emphasis upon typology as a means to describe Paul’s interpretation.  The key to this argument is considering the stage in which scripture would be employed in writing (based on the rhetorical handbooks).   Though he concedes these steps don’t happen rigidly, the order is important: 1) invention, 2) arrangement, 3) expression, 4) memory, and 5) delivery.  The collection of material to use in an argument (for Paul, scriptural texts) happens with the invention stage (1), whereas the employment of that material to the audience through tropes (metalepsis, metaphor, allegory, etc.) would occur in the expression stage (3).  That is, typology (a trope) would be just verbal dressing meant to convince, but this would not be the heart of his argument.  Since Paul has a unified view of the divine economy he can use older texts to speak about current events, which can only be viewed in light of Christ and the apostolic kerygma.  They don’t have to speak about the old event and then make a correspondence to the contemporary event (as in typology).  They just speak directly to the contemporary event/issue.  Bates goes through a number of Pauline passages to demonstrate this: Rom 5.14; 1 Cor 10.1-11; Gal 4.21-31; and 2 Cor 3.1-4.6.

Chapter 4. One central example of reading the Old Testament as speaking directly to or within the contemporary frame is through prosopological exegesis.  That is, an interpreter encounters an inspired writing which has an ambiguous voice/saying, and the interpreter “resolves the perceived uncertainty by assigning a suitable prosopon to the speaker or the addressee (or both) to explain the text” (217).  In this chapter, Bates does not focus on Paul but rather Greek, Jewish, and later Christian writers to show how this method of interpretation was employed.  This is particularly where his “diachronic intertextuality” model comes into play.  After establishing the existence and execution of the practice, he turns in the next chapter to explore how Paul employs this.

Chapter 5. Bates walks through several Pauline passages that meet his criteria for the possibility of prosopological exegesis: Rom 10.6-8; 15.3; 10.16; 10.19-21; 11.9-10; 14.11; 15.9; and 2 Cor 4.13.  Of these passages, he cogently explains how Paul inserts/hears Christ (or others) as the ambiguous speaker in OT texts.  Paul only explicitly introduces prosopological exegesis in Rom 10.6-8, but the other texts explored (besides 10.19-21) clearly show prosopological exegesis.  While 10.19-21 may appear to be prosopological, Bates argues against seeing this employed in that passage.  Importantly, Bates doesn’t conclude that this method of exegesis is the key to unlock every use of the OT (cf pg 326), but it does give insight into Paul’s perspective on the unified divine economy.

Chapter 6. In his final chapter Bates gives a gift to his readers.  He revisits all of the major conversation partners in modern scholarship and explains how his research affirms, critiques, or refutes their work.  He prefigures this in chapter 1, but having a clear discussion about each scholar’s work in light of his research is again very helpful for framing its significance in larger debates.  I’ll note two here.  In distinction to Watson’s decision to explore Paul in light of fellow Jewish interpreters, Bates finds Paul’s fellow Christians, especially those a century or so later, to be better models of helping us understand Paul’s methods.  In contrast to Hays who finds a form of typology important for Paul’s exegesis, Bates argues that the method of selecting and employing texts doesn’t support that view and more importantly the contemporary Christ-informed setting consumes Paul’s vision such that a correspondence between past and present is not the focus, only the present is.

Hopefully, that is an adequate summary of the argument.  It only scratches the surface of the exegesis and work put into the monograph.  I will return in my next post to give my evaluation of the work.


Every Thursday morning on BBC Radio 4, Melvyn Bragg hosts an endlessly fascinating discussion on a scholarly topic between three researchers in the field, called ‘In our Time‘. I always think it is worth the license fee for this programme alone. Right now (0930 GMT), Judas Maccabeus is getting the treatment by Philip Alexander, Helen Bond, and Tessa Rajak. Listening to the discussion, I hadn’t realised that the historical value of 1 and 2 Maccabees goes so relatively unquestioned. Since this is hardly advance notice (sorry), it will be available via iPlayer from the ‘In our Time’ homepage in due course.

Professor Loren Stuckenbruck gave an interesting paper this week on the area of the apocrypha and its interaction with Jewish and Christian canons. He didn’t mention the council at Jamnia so I asked about its role in the debate. I got an odd look from him, and he responded in a gracious manner saying that it is highly debatable that that ever happened. Doh! So I asked him to clarify. He didn’t go into detail but said a process of standardization occured but mostly in the 2nd century and that the process was retrojected back into the first century. So, for those of you like me that were fed the Jamnia story, learn your lesson from my experience and hold your tongue in public discussions.

I think this issue of canon is quite interesting since a significant chunk of the ‘Bible’ was removed with the reformation. Not that there weren’t some good reasons, but protestants have shunned them to the extent that when I was in high school I almost got the feeling that the catholics made up these books. And why would they choose names like Bel and the Dragon? Students need more interaction with these sources to open their eyes to NT backgrounds.

[Update: It’s good to know wikipedia has it more correct than the educators that I’ve had in the past on this issue: Jamnia]

I assume that most of us use BibleWorks or Logos for electronic interaction with biblical texts in their original languages.  However, the German Bible Society (Deutschen Bibelgesellschaft) has all of the major critical editions online, i.e.., NA27, BHS, Rahlfs’ LXX, and the Vulgate.  Having a knowledge of German does help, but for the most part the browsing is intuitive enough for others based on cognates.

The greek is in unicode, so it’s easy to copy and paste into Word, etc. if you are a unicode user.  The Hebrew came across into Word as well, but the cantilation marks had to be removed to make it look ok.  (I haven’t done enough with Hebrew in unicode to know whether the .de version is or not.)

There is a basic search function (after you select the version, click on Suche im Bibeltext), if, I think, you are registered (which is free but requires responding to an email).  I only tried it in Greek, using the unicode Greek keyboard function in Windows.  (It won’t let you search by transliteration.)  It will let you look up inflected forms of words.  It also lets you use wildcard symbols to catch multiple forms, but it would be hard to look up all the uses of a particular word if its form changes significantly.

Even more than the search feature, I was hoping the critical apparatus would be online.  But alas, it doesn’t seem to be.  For instance, I saw nothing at Rom 5.1 with the ἐχομεν/ἐχωμεν readings.

HT: Bible Researcher.com

As one who is hoping to encourage biblical scholars to engage more with patristic interpreters, I thought it would be helpful to explain the best routes to find where patristic writers cite the Bible.  This topic was briefly brought up at Evangelical Textual Criticism.  The best resource I’ve found to discuss the issue is “A Note on the Critical Use of Instrumenta for the Retrieval of Patristic Biblical Exegesis,” Steven R. Harmon, Journal of Early Christian Studies 11:1, 95–107 © 2003 The Johns Hopkins University Press

Harmon offers this as this priority for ‘the most efficient use of [the] tools.  First, one should consult the volumes of Biblia Patristica. Second, one should supplement Biblia Patristica with keyword searches of the electronic databases [e.g., TLG]. Third, one should compare the combined results from Biblia Patristica and electronic databases with the entries in the scripture indices for PG, PL, PLS, and CPG, since it is possible that these could yield a reference not located by the other tools; in the test case, that did in fact happen with the PLS index.’ (105)

(1) Biblia Patristica. Seven volumes have been published to date, along with a supplementary volume for biblical references in Philo of Alexandria, who served as an exegetical model for many patristic authors.  The entries do not distinguish between quotations and allusions, and criteria for the latter are rather loose. (Began in 1975, latest volume in 2000.)

  • Volume 1: beginnings of extracanonical Christian literature up to Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian.
  • Volume 2 Third century, apart from Origen.
  • Volume 3 Origen
  • Volume 4 Fourth century, includes Eusebius of Caesarea, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Epiphanius of Salamis.
  • Volume 5 covers Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Amphilochius of Iconium.
  • Volume 6 Latin writers, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan, and the Ambrosiaster.
  • Volume 7 Didymus the Blind.

[UPDATE: The published and unpublished portions of Biblia Patristica are now online at BIBLindex! See my post here.]

(2) Electronic Databases. There are four major electronic databases that provide keyword-searchable access early Christian literature: the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG), the Patrologia Latina Database (PLD), the Cetedoc Library of Christian Latin Texts (CLCLT), and the Archive of Celtic Latin Literature (ACLL).

  • TLG contains nearly all extant Greek texts from Homer to 600 c.e. and much of the Byzantine literature from 600 to 1453. Periodic updates are issued; a significant addition to release E in 2000 is the corpus of Cyril of Alexandria, among other authors.
  • PLD contains the complete, uncorrected text of PL.
  • CLCLT contains the more reliable editions of the Corpus Christianorum Latinorum.  At present PLD is more extensive, but CLCLT is updated periodically and already contains a number of texts not found in PL.
  • ACLL complements the CLCLT database by including Latin texts produced in Gaelic speaking areas of Europe from 400–1200 c.e.’ (100-101).

See Brepols.net for electronic language stuff, particularly for Latin.  Also, see the Corpus Christianorum, whose Series Graeca (CCSG) is replacing Migne’s PG with better critical texts.

3) Scripture Indices. For the researcher working any time prior to 1975 to locate references biblical citations in early Christian literature through the eighth century, the best set of tools would have been the index volumes of the Migne Patrologiae Cursus Completus.

  • Patrologia Latina (PL) is in indexed in volumes 218-221, though only by book and chapter (not verses, except for the Patrologia Latina Supplementum (PLS)).
  • For Patrologia Graeca (PG): Ferdinand Cavallera, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca: Indices (Paris: Garnier, 1912).  However, these indices primarily only focus on homilies and commentaries rather than theological treatises, making them less than complete.
  • NT citations in Apostolic Fathers: The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905) by the Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology.
  • Clavis Patrum Graecorum (CPG) published by Brepols as part of the Corpus Christianorum series contains an Index Biblicus in volume 5: Maurice Geerard and F. Glorie, CPG, vol. 5, Indices, Initia, Concordantiae (Turnhout: Brepols, 1987).
  • The current edition of Clavis Patrum Latinorum (CPL) does not contain a scripture index: Eligius Dekkers and Emil Gaar, ed., Clavis Patrum Latinorum, 3d ed. (Turnhout: Brepols, 1995).
  • Herman Josef Sieben published an index to patristic homilies on the New Testament in 1991 in the series Instrumenta Patristica: Herman Josef Sieben, Kirchenväterhomilien zum Neuen Testament: Ein Repertorium der Textausgaben und Untersuchungen, mit einem Anhang der Kirchenväterkommentare, Instrumenta Patristica 22 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff International, 1991).