Saturday, May 30, 2015

Straatman and 1 Cor 14:33-35 at SBL Atlanta 2015

As part of our project on New Testament conjectural emendation, Karin Neutel (University of Groningen/VU University Amsterdam) will present an important paper at the SBL annual meeting in November 2015. Title and abstract below should easily convince you to book a flight and attend the session:

Silencing Women, Raising the Dead: The Curious Origins of a Controversial Conjectural Emendation

The question whether Paul really instructed women to be silent in community gatherings or whether this text is in fact a later interpolation (1 Cor. 14:33b/34-35), is one of the most hotly debated text critical issues. Controversies over the past century surrounding the role of women in Christian communities have made the status of these verses especially significant. This paper will clarify the curious origins of this particular conjectural emendation and the context in which it arose. In doing so, it contributes to the ‘historical turn’ in textual criticism and illustrates the historical value of studying textual conjectures. The emendation will be shown to predate debates on women in the ministry and to have its background in another long-running dispute, that of the nature of the resurrection. The Dutch scholar Jan Willem Straatman was the first to argue for the inauthenticity of this passage, in 1863, as part of a broader case about the corrupted make-up of 1 Corinthians. His argument culminates in a rejection of Pauline authorship of statements about the appearance of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-11). Even though Straatman was thus not primarily motivated by a concern for the position of women in the church, the passage still struck him as one of the most obviously inauthentic texts in the New Testament. The arguments put forward by him are those that have remained significant in subsequent discussions: in addition to textual variations, Straatman highlights the apparent contradiction with the acceptance of women’s speech in 1 Cor. 11, and with the equality between men and women suggested by Gal. 3:28, that in Christ there is ‘no male and female’. In Straatman’s view, a text that urges women to be obedient and silent declares them to be inferior to men, and should therefore be rejected as un-Pauline. As part of the project 'New Testament Conjectural Emendation: A Comprehensive Enquiry' (at VU University, Amsterdam), this analysis of the origins of Straatman’s emendation highlights the historical insights that the study of textual conjecture yields. The case of Straatman shows that already in the mid-19th century, attitudes towards women were such that this passage could present itself as problematic for a critical reader. This analysis also illustrates the particular religious environment in which such a critical reading could originate. In supporting his rejection of bodily resurrection with the claim that the command for women to be silent is a later interpolation, Straatman raised an issue that has continued to plague Pauline scholarship until the present day.