Sunday, June 1, 2008

Great Article in the JGRChJ!

Mark Goodacre has pointed to the most recent Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism and its contents, including a great article co-authored by Stanley Porter and Andrew W. Pitts entitled, "Paul’s Bible, His Education and His Access to the Scriptures of Israel".

I just read the article and a few points stand out for me. First, Porter and Pitts discuss Paul's possible education as a youth, first in Tarsus and then later in Jerusalem. Regarding the former, Paul would have learned the basics of progymnasmata, and in the latter he would have had training in the oral Torah. Secondly, regarding curriculum specifics, Paul would have been exposed in his education to the Greek philosophers, poets, tragedians, etc. It was known in the ancient world to have anthologies of certain Greco-Roman authors such as Homer to quote from.

Another great item of this article is a much needed reemphasis on the idea of the ancient world being a 'book culture.' Porter and Pitts are right to insist that an oral and literary culture existed side-by-side. The general arguments against the book culture of the ancient world have stressed the high cost of materials (i.e. papyrus), the predominance of illiteracy amongst the masses, and the lack of printing capabilities are severely overstated as Porter and Pitts demonstrate.

As an aside, I also found a fascinating discussion in this article regarding how Paul may have read the Old Testament , i.e. 'aloud' or in 'silence'. It is been popular, based on the influential work of Paul Achtemeier (‘Omne Verbum Sonat: The New Testament and the Oral Environment of late Western Antiquity’, JBL 109 (1990), pp. 3-27 (15-19); in present article, 33n83) to assume that with Paul, as in all ancient reading, was vocalized. This influence among Pauline scholars has sought to detect oral dimensions within Paul's letters. In support of this, the example of the silent reading of Bishop Ambrose of the fourth century is marshaled for further support of this hypothesis. Criticisms of ancient vocalized reading, esp. by Frank Gillard (‘More Silent Reading in Antiquity: Non Omne Verbum Sonabat’, JBL 112 (1993), pp. 689-94 ; in present article, 33n84) cites many examples where silent reading was a well-practiced form.

Porter and Pitts conclusion on Paul's education and use of the Old Testament Scriptures is worth quoting:

...we believe that it is reasonable at least to explore the pos-sibility [sic] that Paul’s education combined elements of both the Greco-Roman grammar school and Torah training. His exposure to a range of texts, including both continuous texts and various types of anthologies and collections, helps perhaps to account for some of the features of his use of both Scripture and other ancient authors. Actual studies of such usage are of necessity preliminary, and may well always remain so, because the type of evidence that we have, while suggestive, is indirect and circumstantial. Nevertheless, we believe that it is worth exploring that Paul’s involvement in the Greco-Roman and Torah-based educa-tional systems can help account for both the material that he cites, and the way in which he cites it. (40)

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