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The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents.

This instructive and readable dissertation prints the Greek text of the Pastoral Epistles in a careful, episodic arrangement, thus making it possible to follow Dr Miller's detailed and perceptive compositional analysis. He shows that `the letters do not reflect the sort of literary construction that one expects from the hand of an author writing narrative prose; the reader is seldom carried along by the development of thought, much less the force of argument; the letters have no driving concern, no consistent focus of interest; instead, they read like an anthology of traditions, many arranged mechanically together by topic, some simply juxtaposed' (p. 138). If those observations -- which are not new -- rule out Pauline authorship, they equally rule out pseudonymous authorship. No forger would have been so clumsy or so stupid as to produce such a group of un-Pauline oddities. These Epistles were not composed by authors but were assembled by collectors, and it is notable how much of the material is traditional and often not specifically Christian. This material (it is suggested) comprises the sacred traditions of a Christian community, put in written form by a familiar process of accumulation. In a major chapter, Dr Miller presents the view that all sacred Jewish literature was subject to the pervasive work of scribal editors and redactors: `letters, poems, apocalypses, community manuals, wisdom writings, and the like all show signs of having been subject to extensive editorial treatment' (p. 24). In particular scribes did not only add `like' to `like', and the compilation of diverse literary elements frequently resulted in documents that are marked by abrupt transitions and logical discontinuities (p. 52). In that case the Pastoral Epistles can be accounted for if an original form was supplemented and revised by various scribal additions. So, re-enter the genuine Pauline fragments to which P. N. Harrison passionately devoted his energies earlier this century. They have a fairly standard form: of salutation, occasion, news and instructions, and blessing. Tentatively they are identified thus: 1 Tim. 1:1-7, 18-20; 3:14-15; 6:20-21; Titus 1:1-5; 3:9-11, 12-15; 2 Tim. A 1:1-2, (1:3-5?), 1:15-18; 4:6-8, 22a; 2 Tim. B 4:9, 10-18, 19-21, 22b (pp. 147 ff.). They are produced by a community of trained scribes working in a communal library with facilities for copying and collecting (Qumran is the model) and possessed by zeal for preserving the sacred traditions.

This is perhaps becoming fanciful. And Dr Miller himself seems to lose courage. In an appendix he mentions the work of scholars who have recently insisted that the Pastoral Epistles present carefully structured arguments which follow the parenetic canons of their day. But he should hold fast to his own compositional analysis, and should press the view that variations in New Testament documents were a significant feature in primitive Christianity. On the other hand it is not easy to imagine why short letters of only twelve to fourteen verses were pulled apart by trained scribes to insert miscellaneous writings. Nor why all of these writings could be described as `sacred' -- except in the special sense that those who took over the management of the Pauline communities (when he himself could no longer direct them) needed instructions that could be attributed to Paul even though matching their own lesser spiritual perceptions.

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Author:Grayston, K.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1998
Words:550
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