Friday, March 04, 2016

Another Excellent Series from Fr Hunwicke

Fr Hunwicke has just published a series of three articles called “A Bluffer’s Guide to Pauline Pseudonomy.” Although the topic is per se tangential to liturgical matters, his articles will certainly be of interest to our readers, not the least because everything Fr Hunwicke writes is interesting, but also because much of what he says applies equally well to the dubious methodologies which were in the air, so to speak, at the time of the liturgical reform. (Click these links to read part 1, part 2 and part 3.)

“Pseudonomy” and “pseudepigraphy” are the terms of art which Biblical scholars use to indicate that the putative author of a work did not actually write it. (A classic example in the liturgy is the large number of hymns falsely attributed to St Ambrose.) It has long been a conceit of New Testament scholarship that several of St Paul’s letters were not really written by him, but by his admirers of a generation or two later. Some have even gone so far as to declare authentic only one or two of the Pauline letters, but most modern NTEs, as Father calls them (New Testament Experts), will settle somewhere between 4 and 7: broadly speaking, Romans, I and II Corinthians, and Galatians, with Philippians, I Thessalonians and/or Philemon thrown in for good measure.

The first four, he writes “are sometimes called the Tuebingen Four, because F.C. Baur of that University demonstrated that they alone are Pauline in the early nineteenth century. This conclusion (surprise surprise) fits snugly into the Lutheran assumption that, since Justification by Faith Alone is manifestly the heart of S Paul’s Gospel, Romans and Galatians are clearly his most important writings.” And he notes that this judgment was confirmed in the 1960s by the research of one A.Q. Morton, whose stylistic analysis purportedly demonstrated that there is a considerable difference in style between the Tuebingen Four and the rest of the Pauline Corpus.

In the second article, Fr Hunwicke goes on to note a phenomenon which has been well-known for a long time, and inexplicably (or perhaps not so inexplicably) ignored by many Biblical scholars; namely, that the same stylistic analysis which proves that St Paul did not write many of his letters also “proves” any number of manifestly absurd things about other bodies of literature. It has been “demonstrated”, for example, that Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake cannot be by the same author, and that Jane Austen’s novels were not written during the Napoleonic Wars, since she never mentions them. Father also refers to (without explaining in detail) a famous episode in the career of Mons Ronald Knox, who once delivered a paper in which he “proved”, with the methods of modern (i.e. early 20th-century) Biblical scholarship, that many of the Sherlock Holmes stories were not written by their putative author, but by an admirer whom he dubbed “Deutero-Watson.” (The notoriously credulous Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, not realizing that the paper was written as a satire, sent Knox a letter to assure him that he was indeed the author of the entire Corpus Holmesianum.)

Unsurprisingly, the digital age has given us more sophisticated methods of stylistic analysis than Morton had at his disposal in the 1960s, and Fr Hunwicke reports that Sir Anthony Kenny of Baliol College, Oxford, in his 1986 book A Stylometric Study of the New Testament, “comprehensively torpedoed below the waterline” several of the basic NTE assumptions about St Paul. Not only does he vindicate the Pauline authorship of the two Epistles to Timothy (the three Pastoral Epistles are generally considered the least Pauline of all), but also shows that the Letter to the Hebrews “achieves a correlation with ‘Paul’ higher than any other correlations in the New Testament except that between the three Synoptic Gospels.” (It is now titled in the modern lectionaries “A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.”)

To be fair, this kind of research has not been entirely shut out from consideration by the world of Biblical scholarship. Some years ago, I attended a lecture by the grand doyen of liberal Biblical scholars, Fr Raymond E. Brown, on this very topic. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him denounce as false the comparison between pseudonomy among the letters of St Paul and pseudonomy in the Old Testament. He stated that while everyone understood that the attribution of books like Ecclesiastes and Wisdom to Solomon was a literary device, because Solomon had been dead for hundreds of years when they were written, no one denies that the supposedly pseudonomous letters of St Paul were only written about 10-20 years after his death. I remember him saying, “What did the Ephesians think, it got lost in the mail?” (A priest sitting next to me whispered “He hears the rustling of death’s wings behind him”, and he did indeed die a few months later.)

Fr Hunwicke gives more details in his articles, judiciously presenting Kenny’s research and conclusions without giving a lot of the technical jargon behind it. Again, I would encourage you to read all three articles. It remains to note here, however, how this applies to the field of liturgical studies; I will offer only one example. One of the continual sources of complaint about the Novus Ordo is the widespread displacement of the ancient Roman Canon by the blink-and-miss-it Second Eucharistic Prayer. At the time of the reform, this latter was considered one of its great triumphs, since it supposedly restored to use the even more ancient Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus. Laying aside the fact that very little of Hippolytus’ prayer found its way into EP II, no one would any longer seriously defend the idea that the original was ever used by the Church of Rome in her liturgy. The question therefore arises: how many of the other certitudes of modern liturgical scholarship will also eventually be proved false?

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