Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bearing Fruit in Colossians and Intertextual Echoes

So I'm reading D. J. Moo's commentary on Colossians, and it's very good. But then I get to this quote on verse 6:

The language bearing fruit and growing is reminiscent of the Genesis creation story, where God commands human beings to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28; see also 1:22). After the flood the mandate is reiterated (Gen. 8:17; 9:1, 7), and the same language is later used in God’s promises to Abraham and the patriarchs that he would “increase” their number and “multiply” their seed (e.g., Gen. 17:20; 28:3; 35:11). The nation Israel attains this blessing in Egypt (Gen. 48:4; Exod. 1:7) but then, or course, suffers judgement and dispersal. So the formula appears again in God’s promises to regather his people after the exile (Jer. 3:16; 23:3). Paul may, then, be deliberately echoing a biblical-theological motif according to which God’s original mandate to humans finds preliminary fulfilment in the nation Israel but ultimate fulfilment in the worldwide transformation of people into the image of God by means of their incorporation into Christ, the “image of God.”

Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, pg. 88

When I wrote my exegesis of this verse, I didn't come close to anything like this, which begs my perennial question related to so-called intertextual issues. How do we know this was in the mind of Paul, and not just in the mind of D.J. Moo? I mean, it sounds great, but with what confidence can we suggest this was Paul's intention? Or is it just a guess?


Craig L. Adams said...

The fact that he says: "Paul may, then, be deliberately echoing a biblical-theological motif..." suggests that this is a learned guess.

Eddie said...

It simply seems too obscure to me. Even if it is in the mind of Paul, he does not express the thought in the text. So in terms of exegesis, I don't think it gets us anywhere.

And why must the metaphor of 'bearing fruit' carry overtones of previous usage in the scriptures of Judaism? Should we assume that it always does when used in the NT?

Gareth Naude said...

I'm probably not qualified to comment one way or the other. But I can point to something that might help, if you don't know it already. Listening to NT Wright from the Parchment Endowed Lectures (shot again for the link), he mentions that Richard Hayes has 7 tests in his book Echoes of Scripture in the letters of Paul, pg 29-32, by which to test if there really is an acho of the OT.