Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2. Did God’s Wrath Come? - Ritschl on 1 Thes 2:16

This is the second instalment of a series on conjectures in the Nestle editions. See the sidebar for other posts.

In 1 Thes 2:14-16 we find Paul uttering very harsh words against ‘the Jews’. He writes about ‘... the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved – so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!’ (RSV).

An important part of the historical exegesis of these verses is the assumption made by various commentators, or by historians of early Christianity, that the transmitted text contains an interpolation. Their proposals vary from the end of verse 16 only, to 1 Thes 2:15-16, or even 1 Thes 2:13-16 entirely (if for a moment we exclude those who suggest that the entire epistle is not Pauline).

At 1 Thes 2:16 NA27 mentions two conjectures. The second one, by ‘Rodrigues’, will be discussed at another occasion. The first one concerns the omission of ἔφθασεν δὲ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος in verse 16b, and was proposed, according to Nestle-Aland, by ‘Ritschl’. But which Ritschl is it? The famous theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), his son Otto Ritschl (1860-1944), also theologian, or the classical scholar Friedrich Ritschl (1806-1876)? And where did this Ritschl propose the conjecture? Such questions on authors and sources are frequent indeed for anyone interested in the conjectures mentioned in the Nestle editions.

In this case, the author of the conjecture turns out to be Albrecht Ritschl, and its source is his review of Baur’s Paulus (1845)1, in Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 1847. The extended review is found in no. 124 (June), cc. 985-990; no. 125 (June), 993-100 (the entire issue); no. 126 (June), cc. 1001-1008 (the entire issue); and no. 127 (June), cc. 1015-1016; the conjecture itself occurs on c. 1000.2

Some background is necessary to understand what is going on. Well, Ritschl, in general, finds Baur’s approach to the history of the earliest Christians far too schematic. Baur, says he, has a fixed view of Paul’s opposition against Jewish Christians, and does not distinguish sufficiently between Jews and Jewish Christians. Moreover, in the case of 1 Thessalonians, he denies Paul a really apocalyptic mind-set. Baur declares letters or parts of letters authentic or inauthentic with these criteria only in mind. One by one, Ritschl addresses Baur’s arguments against the authenticity of 1 Thessalonians, such as those derived from 1 Thes 2:15-16:
Dass die folgenden Aeusserungen des Paulus gegen die Juden (V. 15. 16) nicht aus der Apostelgeschichte entnommen sein können, wie der Hr. Vf. [Baur] meint, ist erwähnt, und bei der nachgewiesenen Verschiedenartigkeit der Beurtheilung, welche die Judenchristen von Paulus erfahren, können wir uns über den Ausbruch seines Eifers gegen die Juden nicht wundern, wenn wir bedenken, dass gleichzeitige Erfahrungen in Corinth ihm diese Vorwürfe entlocken konnten. Für den von Hrn. Dr. Bauer [sic] beanstandeten Ausdruck λαλῆσαι ἵνα σωθῶσιν finden sich nicht nur in der Apostelgeschichte, sondern auch 2. Cor. 2, 17; 4, 13; Col. 4, 4 Parallelen.3

There remains one problem, that is, one difficulty felt by Ritschl himself, and in this context his conjecture can be found:
Die einzige Stelle, welche nach meiner Meinung gegen den Ursprung des Briefs Verdacht erwecken könnte, sind die Schlussworte dieses Absatzes, ἔφθασε δὲ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος, welche kaum eine andre natürliche Erklärung zu finden scheinen, als durch ihre Beziehung auf die Zerstörung Jerusalems. Allein weil von diesem Punkte aus der ganze Brief nicht verstanden werden kann, so will ich lieber annehmen, dass die Worte Glossen seyen, als dass ich ihnen ein Gewicht in der Bestimmung der Abfassungszeit gegenüber allen sonstigen Merkmalen der Echtheit im Briefe einräume.

So here it is. The method in this case is clear: there is no reason to assume that the epistle itself was not dictated by Paul, except for one obvious anachronism: 2:16b assumes the destruction of Jerusalem, and can for that simple reason not be Pauline. In this respect, and in this respect only, Baur’s observations were correct.4 The simple solution is the assumption of a gloss, which of course depends on the combination of Pauline authorship at the one hand, and the interpretation of 2:16b as alluding to 70 CE. Note also that Ritschl sees no problems in Paul’s other words in 2:15-16. The general context has to be kept in mind: Ritschl’s defence, against Baur, of the epistle as authentically Pauline.

To my knowing, Ritschl did not repeat his conjecture at a later occasion. Once, decades later, he discussed the same words, but, without any reference to his former conjecture, explained them as entirely Pauline.5

The conjecture has an impressive reception history,6 and in my view deserves serious attention. But that is not the scope of this posting.

1. Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi. Sein Leben und Wirken, seine Briefe und seine Lehre. Ein Beitrag zu einer kritischen Geschichte des Urchristenthums, Stuttgart, Becher & Müller, 11845.
2. The source was found thanks to references in Lünemann’s commentary (KEK 10, 21859, p. 68, referring to ‘Hall. A. Lit. Z. 1847. Nr. 126’) and in Schmiedel’s commentary (HNT 2, 21893, p. 21, referring to ‘Halle’sche allg. Lit.-Ztg. 1847 I 1000’).
3. Ritschl’s reacts to Baur’s ideas on these verses as found in Baur, Paulus, pp. 482-483.
4. Baur, Paulus, p. 483: ‘Und wovon kann, nachdem die Juden fortgehend das Maaß ihrer Sünden voll gemacht haben, ἔφθασε δὲ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος natürlicher verstanden werden, als von dem durch die Zerstörung Jerusalems über sie gekommenen Strafgericht?’
5. See Albrecht Ritschl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, vol. 2, Der biblische Stoff der Lehre, Bonn, Adolph Marcus, 21882, p. 142. Ritschl now sees ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος as a prophetic utterance imitating some typical Old Testament prophecies. His conclusion, however, remains somewhat forced: ‘Hiedurch ist erklärt, warum Paulus sich ein Urtheil dieses Inhaltes [‘such a judgement’] für die Gegenwart gestattet, und zugleich ist der eschatologische Sinn des göttlichen Zornes bewahrt.’
6. 1 Thes 2:16c is of course the object of an extensive article by Tjitze Baarda (in Dutch), ‘Maar de toorn is over hen gekomen’, in T. Baarda e.a., Paulus en de andere joden. Exegetische bijdragen en discussie, Delft, Meinema, 1984, pp. 15-74. Baarda mentions James Moffatt, Rudolf Knopf, James Parkes and John W. Bailey as supporters of Ritschl’s conjecture. On pp. 22-30 Baarda discusses all kinds of interpolation proposals, far more than those recorded in the Nestle apparatus, and rejects them all. For Ritschl’s conjecture, Baarda refers to various sources that mention the Allgemeine Literaturzeitung, but in the end (p. 62 n. 47 to p. 23) echos van Manen’s words: ‘Ik kon het blad zelf niet inzien’ (‘I was not able to consult the journal itself’).


Peter M. Head said...

Thanks Jan,

Clearly there is no possible route straight from Ritschl to Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung; so if I want to track down the source of the conjectures in NA editions the best method would be:
1. get a basic idea of the era of the person;
2. check the older detailed commentaries that are likely to discuss this sort of thing;
3. locate the original source in a good library.

Or have you developed good short cuts?

H.C.Couprie said...

Some critical remarks regarding ‘the fourth instalment of a series on conjectures’ submitted by Jan Krans on Thursday, November 27, 2008.

In his article, Jan refers to the passage in John 19:29 which reads: ‘they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.’(King James, cf. RSV). Indeed, the meaning of ‘put it upon hyssop’is problematic in a technical sense. What is the issue here?
According to the translators of the 2004 Nieuwe Bijbelvertaling (New Bible Translation) (see www.voederbak.nl), the plant species hyssop (hyssopus officinalis) does not grow in the Middle East. In their opinion, John the evangelist is probably referring to the majorana syrica (marjoram). For that reason, the NBV-translators changed the word ‘hyssop’ to ‘marjoram’, not only in John 19:29, but in all OT and NT passages including Ex. 12:22; Lev. 14:4,6,49,51,52; Num. 19:6; 1 Kings 5:13; Psa. 51:98; and Hebr. 9:19.
Unfortunately, this conjecture does not solve the technical problem at all, because the majorana syrica, like the hyssopus officinalis, is a small plant which grows out of walls (see 1 Kings 5:13, LXX). Like hyssop, this plant lacks a stalk or a stem and is not suited for the function described by John. Nevertheless, the NBV-translators replaced the word ‘hyssop’ in Joh. 19:29 with 'branch of marjoram' , with the argument that it would "prevent the readers from thinking of a small (kitchen) herb’. Nonsense!
In my opinion this conjecture is a misconception of what John really wanted to communicate to his contemporaries when he used the word ’hyssop’ in John 19:29. This also applies to the various scholars Jan Krans refers to in his article, who pretend to have solved the technical problem by conjecturing hussupos (hyssop) instead of husso (spear).
According to John 19:26, John, the implied writer (John 20:24-25), was standing by the cross. As an eyewitness he was able to see what happened after Jesus told the bystanders he was thirsty (19:29). It would make sense that one of the Roman soldiers actually filled a sponge with vinegar, put it upon his spear and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. John saw this happen. However, if this was the case, why did John use the word hussupos instead of husso? Was it a mistake, or did he put his own ‘spin’ on the story by introducing the word hussupos?
According to many commentators , John introduced the term hussuppos in John 19:29 to express the symbolic connection between the passion narrative of Jesus and the Passover lamb, sacrificed during the celebration of God’s rescue of his people from Egyptian bondage (Ex. 12). This conclusion is based mainly on the fact that the evangelist uses strikingly symbolic language in his gospel as a strategic means to convey his point of view to his implied readers.
Major support for this line of interpretation is specifically found in the Johannine passion narrative. According to John’s chronology, Jesus is sentenced to die at noon (19:14), the hour when the slaughter of the Passover lambs in the temple began (cf. Ex. 12:6). Jesus’ bones were not broken, just as the bones of the Passover lamb were not broken
(19:36) (cf. Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12). Moreover, the many narrative asides referring to the Passover in John 2:13,23; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1;13:1; and 18:28,39 clearly show that John is familiar with the idea of Jesus as the sacrificed Passover lamb. In the same way, it is likely that the evangelist, by using the word hussupos in John 19:29, wanted to emphasize that Jesus sacrificed himself as the true Passover Lamb.
With this interpretation in mind, the question presents itself whether John 19:29 actually is a conjecture, as suggested in the 27/11/ 2008 issue of Weblog NT.

Henk Couprie

Maarten Wisse said...

I don't see why 2 Thes 3:16 must be a gloss, the last part that is. After all, this is a very apocalyptic letter in which it is through faith in Jesus (1:10), and probably through faith in him alone, that people are saved from the wrath of God (salvific pluralism is not something for the 1st century I'm afraid). If we do not want to make the crude assumption that every apocalyptic text from a Jewish context must be dated after 70 CE, then there is every good reason to assume that Paul could say this in advance to 70CE, even more if we take into account that he does not mention the Jews only, but also the gentiles.

Dear brothers, be very careful with conjectural adaptations of the NT. In most cases, these are wishes that are intended to make the text more comprehensible or more acceptable to modern readers... (the Jews!)

Jan Krans said...

Re: Maarten Wisse's comment
In general I agree, of course. Conjectural criticism is a historical-literary task, not a theological one, after all. Admittedly, it is not always easy to separate the two. In Ritschl's case, however, I do not think he is trying to exonerate Paul from present-day sensitivities. Indeed, he clearly attributes a harsh attitude to the apostle. His question is: is it historically conceivable that Paul wrote "the wrath has come"; he - at least initially - thinks that could only be said in this way after 70 CE.