Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Note on a Conjecture (Philemon 23)

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From a footnote in something I am writing about letter-carriers:
In 1909 Amling proposed a single-letter emendation to read  0Ihsouj rather than  0Ihsou= at Phile 23, and thus allow complete agreement in those sending greetings in Col 4.10-14 and Phile 23f (‘Eine Konjectkur in Philemonbrief’). The passage would thus read as follows: ‘Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ greets you; (as do) Jesus, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my co-workers’. In support Amling observed that in Philemon the normal expression is simply ‘in Christ’ (cf. v8, 20), and that Paul is not consistent in always adding ‘Jesus’ in such expressions concerning terms like ‘prisoner’, ‘slave’, or ‘fellow-prisoner’ (Rom 1.1; Phile 1; cf. 1 Cor 7.22; Gal 1.10; Eph 6.6; Rom 16.7). This conjecture was supported by Lohse (Colossians and Philemon, 207: ‘highly probable’, and note 16); Ollrog (Mitarbeiter, 49: ‘höchstwahrscheinlich’); Knox (Philemon, 13: ‘plausibly argued’), and most recently Campbell, Framing Paul, 280f: ‘seems highly plausible’, although Campbell does not refer to the earlier discussions). However, despite the advantages which result from this reading, and the simplicity of the proposal (concerning only a single letter); against it stands not only the general caution against adopting conjectural readings (especially those which smooth an obvious interpretive difficulty) – hence the description of the proposal as ‘arbitrary’ (Fitzmyer, Philemon, 124) or ‘Willkür’ (Gnilka), or as standing against the whole textual tradition (Stuhlmacher, Philemon, 55; confirmed recently by Solomon, The Textual History of Philemon, 562); but also the specific problem that in Pauline circles, and especially in a greeting, it is most unlikely that an undisambiguated ‘Jesus’ would stand for the personal name ‘Jesus Justus’, so Dunn, Colossians and Philemon, 343 note 2 and Gnilka, Philemon, 92 note 8 (cf. the broader issues canvassed in Bauckham, Jesus, 67-84).

7 comments :

  1. Amling’s single-letter emendation is too short. The original Philem 23, 24 was « Ἀσπάζεταί (¹) σε Ἐπαφρᾶς ὁ συναιχμάλωτός μου ἐν Χριστῷ καὶ Ἰησοῦς, Μᾶρκος, Ἀρίσταρχος, Δημᾶς, Λουκᾶς, οἱ συνεργοί μου. ». Confused by this name – Ἰησοῦς – not nicknamed Ἰοῦστος, our copyist, aware of another Ἰησοῦς, ho legomenos Nazarhnos or Cristos, dropped the καὶ and emended one letter, -ς.


    1. vel Ἀσπάζονταί.

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    1. I think one of the reasons that Amling's emendation has been fairly widely accepted is precisely that it relates to only a single letter. That probably works on two levels: scholars see that it is a simple error for a scribe to make; and scholars don't feel they are "messing" with the text very much.
      I think that a KAI would have left an obvious potential confusion - and so is less likely.

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  2. While Joshua is likely a common name, one would think that someone whose name is spelled that way would be used to being disambiguated in these circles. I find it highly doubtful that Paul would have placed such a Joshua's name in such proximity to en Christō that it could be confused for the name of the messiah. If this is a greeting from people on whose reference Paul relies for his hearing in the remote setting, it does not seem likely that he would risk eliding such an important contemporary Joshua by confusion with Jesus. The name would be shuffled later in the list, or if he was indeed so important as to be first in line, the syntax would be reordered to avoid this infelicity. The conjecture relies on someone being bad at their job in the first place, basically, whether Paul or the professional scribe who wrote this composition for him.

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    1. Also, the Hellenized spelling of Joshua is the only Judean name in this list, in an appeal to an otherwise entirely Gentile context, which makes the conjecture doubly unlikely.

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    2. Of course, I'm also compelled by the evidence I have to believe that Colossians is post-Pauline, and that its author and community have an early version of the circulating Pauline canon. Philemon serves as a point of attachment to the canon, a way to write a letter with personal realia that will resonate with an audience similarly familiar with the canon. So I don't see the statement in Col 4:10-11 that Aristarchus and Marcus are Judeans (or circumcised converts) as a reflection of historical reality.

      That said, from such a perspective it is possible that the composition of an individual called "Jesus Justus" is itself a conjecture on the basis of this line in Philemon, well predating Amling!

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    3. I agree that there doesn't seem to be any particularly good reason for introducing "Jesus [not Christos]" first in the list. It is the sort of thing which would have been an obvious problem revealed in drafting (or just implicitly in composition).

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    4. Even if I did think that way about Colossians (which I don't), I can't see the creation of a Jesus Justus out of a straightforward 'in Christ Jesus' as a very plausible compositional event.

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