New JSNT is online – June 2012

See here.

I have been eagerly waiting for this issue to come out because I have a small piece in here on mirror-reading. I owe a huge, huge debt to one of my Doktorvatern, John M.G. Barclay, for his care in historical method and this article (as noted in the first footnote) is dedicated to him. Also, I am deeply grateful for Simon Gathercole’s editorial comments and recommendations. He also happened to be my external examiner for my thesis back in 2009. Simon holds JSNT authors to the very highest standard for quality writing and he came back to me several times after reading my paper over and over – he always had new comments!  I really admire how seriously he takes his role. So thank you, thank you, thank you! Anyway, the names of the articles are below.

Joshua D. Garroway, “The Circumcision of Christ: Romans 15.7-13”

David L. Mealand, “Hellenistic Greek and the New Testament: A Stylometric Perspective”

Denny Burk, “The Righteousness of God (Dikaiosunē Theou) and Verbal Genitives: A Grammatical Clarification”

Nijay K. Gupta, “Mirror-Reading Moral Issues in Paul’s Letters”
Jason Whitlark, “The Warning against Idolatry: An Intertextual Examination of Septuagintal Warnings in Hebrews”

11 thoughts on “New JSNT is online – June 2012

  1. Congratulations, Nijay. Your article should prove to be a useful guide for future studies on ethical discourse in the NT.

    I’m curious to know, however, what you think most OTHER scholars mean by the expression “mirror reading.” In your article you define “mirror reading” as “looking at an ‘image’ (part of a conversation) and trying to discern the original ‘object’ (the original discussion or context).” But I had a conversation with somebody at the last SBL (a Galatians scholars no less!) who quite aggressively maintained that, properly understood, “mirror reading” is not a matter of discerning “context,” but strictly the “discussion.” That is, “mirror reading” entails interpreting a given statement (normally an assertion or denial) as “reflecting” in varying degrees the STATEMENT of another. “Mirror reading,” then, according to this person, necessarily involves making suppositions about what has actually been SAID by somebody other than the author. Thus, what you mean by “mirror reading” is simply the task of “historical reconstruction,” which to this person seems to be the larger category of which “mirror reading” is only a specific sub-type. Does this make sense? I myself am fine using the expression as you use it. But how do you think most scholars use the expression? Do they use it as narrowly as my conversation partner?

    1. Hi John. Thanks.Was this conversation with someone who had Barclay as his examiner? 🙂 I had the same conversation with him (over email)! Anyway, you are right to think that I am using it more in terms of historical reconstruction than something too specific. What Barclay was really worried about was taking the original teachings of the false teachers as the opposite of what Paul was saying.

      I am trying to work towards a method to prevent the same type of thing happening with moral issues (where people presume if Paul gives an ethical prohibition, the readers were guilty of doing the action to the nth degree). However, we are dealing with “teachings” in this case but moral matters. That means I am not as concerned with a “discussion” as with behavior (“moral issues”).

      Back to your question – what do MOST scholars mean? Most scholars are confused! Some are insistent (you have met one) that “mirror-reading” is about discerning polemics through reconstruction of conversation. However, a number of scholars use it to mean utilizing information in Paul’s letters to try and “read” what Paul was reacting against or to. For example, I think I am on the same track is using the term as Ciampa/Rosner (1 Cor page 46).

      In my conversation with others about my article, I think people intuited pretty quickly what I meant when I was using the term, even if others might use it differently. I had not thought about this problem of definition until AFTER I wrote the article and it was accepted. My impression is that Simon and the JSNT reviewers were not worried about it too much.

      Maybe it is time for another article on “Mirror-reading the background and history of the use of the word “Mirror-reading”!

  2. Nijay, I will certainly read your article … I remember John Barclay’s article on mirror-reading in Galatians…. you are absolutely spot on about Simon. You should see the painstaking detail in his 2012 CUP Composition of the Gospel of Thomas ….

    1. I have to say that I always thought of “mirror-reading” as a specific nailing down of the exact statement or incident against which Paul argues. Of course the term has been more associated with Galatians because of the need to identify the specifics of the opponent’s teaching which really upset Paul. But in the wider sense, I would have thought that the general idea of reconstructing the socio-historical circumstances necessitating Paul’s letter should not be regarded as “mirror-reading” except if and when such a reconstruction proposes some destailed and specific situation not immediately obvious by the text. So for example, J Martyn’s proposal of Two-level drama of John’s Gospel is a case in point. To the extent that the general milieau in which the Gospel was written is thought to have been one of intimidation of Christ followers, that I don’t think should be regarded as mirror-reading. But when Martyn proposed the specific scenario of the excommunication of Christ followers from the synagogue following the Council of Jannia was the setting of the writing of John’s Gospel, that must be taken as “mirror-reading” and perhaps a “test-case” of its excesses?

      1. Hi Annang. Thanks for this. Certainly the beginnings of the use of the language of “mirror-reading” focused on polemical texts where opponents are involved and modern readers of Paul’s letters are trying to re-construct the actual arguments of the opponents. In that sense, the term is not relevant to the discussion of moral issues.

        However, many scholars found this discussion of “mirror-reading” to be relevant to other matters of historical reconstruction, such as the rhetorical of unity and solidarity in Philippians, as I show in the article – a text where there is probably no “local threat” in terms of false teaching. I think, then, the language of “mirror-reading” has naturally been widened to include other kinds of situations. So what does it mean if we generalize it?

        I like Richard Longenecker’s definition, where he refers to it as a method that aims to study a letter so as to “determine the identity, character, circumstances, and concerns of its addressees” (see Introducing Romans, p. 78).

        Many other researchers take this approach, where “mirror-reading” is used as a literary-historical approach to studying a letter to discern how and to what degree the rhetoric and information within the text “reflects” the situation of the addressees (see Daniel Streett’s They Went Out from Us, p. 112).

        I like the way Todd Wilson puts it: “mirror-reading is based upon what the text reflects, rather than what it states.” (The Curse of the Law, p. 51). This is precisely what I am trying to address regarding how and to what degree information within Paul’s rhetorical letter might be used as evidence proving moral issues in the background or context.

  3. Those are helpful definitions from Longenecker and Still, especially because they justify the generalized way in which I use the term!

  4. Hi Nijay, I enjoyed reading your aticle – lots to think about and incorporate into my own work … just one thought: might 1 Corinthians not have been a more suitable test case given the multiple complexities surrounding mirror-reading there in particular?
    I had a nice chat with Simon about your article this morning – well done! Maybe your article will become just as famous as Barclay’s….

    1. Thanks for this note, Fredrik. I am so jealous you are in Cambridge! Say hello to Simon for me. Talk about a careful editor – he’s one of the best, I am sure.

      Be well!

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