Archive for November 27th, 2009

Reviewing Campbell (5) / SBL 2009 Report (2)

Friday, November 27th, 2009

The Monday afternoon session on The Deliverance of God by Douglas Campbell drew a good crowd, as everyone expected. I began my review with a summary of the book for 5 minutes, including this sentence that fulfilled a request from several people for a one-sentence summary of the book: “Wilhelm Wrede marries J. Louis Martyn, and they have two children, “speech-in-character” and “alternative theory.”

Here and for the next two posts are some excerpts from my critique and counter-proposal, which Douglas calls mere “reframing” and then accuses me of “psychologizing” (see comments on Chris Tilling’s blog, under his wife’s name [Rachel]).

The absolutely crucial problem in Douglas’s analysis of Romans is his characterization of Rom 1:18—3:20 as a whole. This problem has two parts, one formal and one material. The first problem is the lack of convincing criteria to establish the existence of the Teacher and the identification of his words. The second problem is the matter of perspective: is 1:18—3:20 a prospective argument from the pen of a judgmental Jewish-Christian teacher advocating a “program of desert” (p. 343), or is it the retrospective assessment of Paul himself?

Douglas’s rereading of Romans and justification hangs, at least according to Douglas himself, on his rereading of Rom 1:18—3:20. He argues that 1:18-32 and much of chap. 2 do not contain the words of Paul, but of the Teacher.

The problem he faces, of course, is the apparent lack of formal criteria, or signals, to identify the words of Paul and not-Paul. Although ancient rhetoric does not require such formal criteria to indicate a shift in voice, there needs to be some formal and/or contextual markers to make the argument for “non-Paul” credible. To take the most important issue, we consider 1:18-32, which Douglas labels “speech-in-character”: Paul speaking in the voice of another, namely the Teacher. Speech-in-character is in fact a recognized form of rhetoric. But what exactly qualifies as “speech-in-character”? Douglas has defined this genre very unclearly and way too broadly.

Romans 7 is the stock Pauline example of speech-in-character. Its first-person-singular language seems very much like “play-acting” (p. 529, one of Douglas’s synonyms for speech-in-character). But are quotations of Corinthian slogans and other short pieces of text really specimens of speech-in-character, as Douglas claims (pp. 540-41)? I don’t think so, but Douglas wants us to think so because he claims that they, like Rom 1:18-32, have no overt cues signaling that they are quotations, yet most scholars still think they are quotations, not Paul’s words. Similarly, are short rhetorical questions and exclamations like m? genoito (see p. 537) really examples of speech-in-character? Again, I don’t think so, but Douglas wants us to see how pervasive speech-in-character is in Paul.

Furthermore, at times the assigning of parts in 1:18—3:20—this to the Teacher, that to Paul—is torturous in the extreme, as if some mid-20th-century source-critic had provided a set of colored pencils and an assignment to find sources, and evidence for those sources, even if there was none. This is especially true in the case of 2:12-16 (p. 559).

So the question arises, Does Douglas find evidence for the Teacher, or does he need evidence for the Teacher because he has read Romans in such a way that Romans 5-8 and 1-3 are totally incompatible? Or because he needs to reject 1:18-32 for other (theological?) reasons? One sometimes has the feeling that Douglas ascribes the bulk of 1:18—3:20 to the Teacher(s) out of desperation. Nothing else seems to solve the problems—his summary listing includes 56 of them (p. 431)—with the “contractual” theology he has identified! To do so, however, he reads the rhetoric of the second-person-singular pronoun in 2:1ff as direct address to a real individual and is thereby forced to engage in dubious mirror reading and historical reconstruction.

At times, Douglas wants to have his cake and eat it, too. For instance, he is emphatic that Paul’s second-person attack in 2:1ff is not against Judaism but against one Jew, the Teacher, yet he curiously claims that Paul is very indirect in his attack on the Teacher in 3:19-20 because he “wishes to perpetuate the illusion that he is speaking in somewhat generalized terms” (p. 584).

Thus the existence of “the Teacher(s)” and the location of his (their) voice is at least “underdetermined,” to use Douglas’s term: there is no hard evidence.

Douglas has committed a textual “sin of omission” (his term; e.g., p. 338); it is not self-evident that “a fairly overt network of dramatic, stylistic, and substantive signals systematically encodes the argument of 1:18—3:20 as a whole in terms of a particular figure” (p. 345), namely the Christian Teacher who “adopts a posture of thoroughgoing judgment” (p. 345). Also underdetermined is the alleged specific role of Phoebe (e.g., p. 532) in knowing and then interpreting for the Roman auditors these signals. [That is, he provides NO evidence that Phoebe would have interpreted and did interpret the letter orally as he wants us to read it. I noted this in my written remarks, but not in the oral presentation. Too bad I did not have a Phoebe to interpret me, but at least I am leaving a blog post to indicate this point for future generations!]

Next post: problems with the characterization of 1:18—3:20 as “prospective.”