Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Douglas Campbell and Phoebe
In Douglas Campbell's new reading of Romans (in The Deliverance of God) he assigns a significant role to Phoebe in communicating the "speech in character" aspect of large parts of Romans 1-3. This was mentioned by DC in the Q&A at SBL (audio recording here - about 75% through); but comes up only once in the book, and there without any discussion:
"it seems fair to suggest that Romans 1:18-32 could have been performed as speech-in-character. (And had Paul composed this passage in this way, he presumably would have given Phoebe explicit instructions in how to perform it.)" (p. 532)
It is surprising that considering the importance of this performative possibility in DC's reading, his presumption is not explained or defended in any way. It is worth noting that there is less evidence for letter carriers involvement in reading/performing the letter which they are carrying than Campbell presumes here (for the documentary papyri see my JSNT article).

11 comments:

Nijay K. Gupta said...

Peter- I just finished reading Campbell's book and when I got to the passage you quoted, I thought of your article and wondered the same thing!

I will have a review essay coming out in Reviews in Religion and Theology sometime in 2010, if you are interested in my full appraisal and critique.

Richard Fellows said...

Pete,

In support of your point, I imagine that they would have chosen the best reader to read the letter. Also, if the letter carriers were expected to read the letters, they would have been put in the uncomfortable position of having to commend themselves. It is hard to imagine that 1 Cor 16:15-16 was written for Stephanas to read out loud to the Corinthians, for example. Maybe you made both these points in your paper: it's a while since I read it.

Peter M. Head said...

Richard,
I agree - that is not how commendatory letters worked in antiquity.
I do argue in that paper that the courier, when named, normally has an additional role in communication beyond simply delivering the letter, but I also noted that in the documentary material I looked at there is no indication that letter carriers read letters for the recipients.
Of course that was not a universal study of epistolary communication in antiquity, but it is interesting what DC is willing to assume without argument.

Rachel said...

I have to confess that I don't care that much whether Phoebe read the letter out or not, as long as the letter bearers had some input into its interpretation based on the readings that they would already have heard in Corinth (assuming that we're speaking about Romans). More important perhaps is the realization that letters were probably read multiple times and memorized. The idea that someone arrived and just read out a complex letter like Romans once would seem to be a western anachronism. (Saenger etc.)

I look forward to a closer engagement with your learned pieces Peter, once I get hold of them.

In terms of commendatory letters, is the reception of Romans altered if ch. 16 contains (or is) a separate letter? That might explain the double instance of almost all closing formulae.

[Douglas wearing the prosôpon of Rachel for those who have not yet detected the voice.]

Peter M. Head said...

Douglas, on that score, i.e. that "the letter bearers had some input into its interpretation", I am right with you.

Peter M. Head said...

Douglas: "is the reception of Romans altered if ch. 16 contains (or is) a separate letter?"

There are a lot of issues here. Assuming for the sake of argument that ch 16 was a separate letter sent to Ephesus (the old view), but attached to chs 1-15 by someone at some stage: then you have two types of reception. There is the reception history of the canonical form within the Pauline corpus. And there are presumably two separate receptions which can be imagined/reconstructed/implied - the Roman reception of 1-15 and the Ephesian reception of 16.

I think this would impact our consideration of the reception of Romans because you wouldn't be able so easily to appeal to the letter-carrier (who would be unspecified); nor would we know of the names and histories of some members of the Roman "church"; nor would we want to fact in the polemical aspect (Stuhlmacher etc.), nor would we think of it as necessarily having a Corinthian origin (hence the prologues which place Romans in Athens).

So it would have to make a big difference in considering reception.

Rachel said...

I actually meant if it was a separate letter of introduction that accompanied Phoebe to Rome. I think the Ephesian theory is pretty dead these days. If there were two letters originally to Rome, then she would not read out her short letter of commendation. But once commended and received, what would her subsequent role be vis-a-vis Romans 1-15? Again, I don't really care that much what it was specifically, but it just occurred to me that the commendation argument against her reading Romans 1 following needs the entire letter to be unified. And for unity to hold (which I still tend toward myself), the double formulae need to be explained, and I don't know of a good explanation of that yet. But I thought perhaps that you might.

Richard Fellows said...

Douglas, I have just argued here on my blog that the persecution under Nero can explain the textual variations associate with the final two chapters of Romans. If this is valid, it would mean that Romans 1-16 is a unity.

Peter M. Head said...

Sorry for misunderstanding your point Douglas. I don't think two separate letters to Rome solves very much. It leaves 1-15 without a proper/normal ending; and it makes 16 a very strange letter of recommendation. Re "the double instance of almost all closing formulae" I suppose I'd need a list, but how far does it go beyond 15.33//16.20? I still think original unity followed by textual disruption is a better explanation than disunity.

In terms of Phoebe's role it is not the unity of the letter that drives the idea that she may not have read it out, more two other factors: a) it seems to run against the weight of the ancient evidence on letter-carrying practice; b) it certainly runs against the relationships anticipated in an 'introductory' setting by the generic links to the letter of recommendation type.

Rachel said...

Jeffrey Weima has done some interesting work on this, although a while ago now. I haven't got it in front of me but I think he noted these things.

There is the double peace wish as you note. Also, a double set of greetings: 16:16b, and then (more specifically) 21-23. There MIGHT be a double grace wish, depending on how you parse the textual variants. And this is almost all you need to finish a Pauline letter.

What if there was an inserted letter in ch. 16--vv. 1-20? I admit that it begins slightly awkwardly.

Having said all this, I'm quite happy with some sort of textual disruption. I'll check out the Neronian confusion theory Richard. Thanks for the pointer. That sounds intriguing. (I date Romans a bit earlier than the consensus, but that wouldn't necessarily alter a later disruption.)

Richard Fellows said...

Pete,

as you may have noticed, James Dunn also assumes that those who carried Paul's letters would probably read them out (Beginning from Jerusalem p594-595).