Friday, November 04, 2011

Intertextuality - Understanding Types of Audiences

Christopher Stanley in his work, Arguing with Scripture: The Rhetoric of Quotations in the Letters of Paul, suggests that the only references “that Paul’s first-century audience definitely would have recognized are those that are marked as such within the text” (e.g., as with “an explicit quotation formula”). Stanley thus cautions “against the presumption that Paul’s first-century audience recognized and appreciated his many unmarked references to the biblical text.”  I say cautions, as there may be legitimate appeals to intertextuality where formal quotation formulae are absent.  Stanley's helpful contribution comes to us in his analysis of types of audiences. 

Types of Audiences
(a) The informed audience – ‘a person who knows the original context of every one of Paul's quotations and is willing to engage in critical dialogue with Paul about his handling of the biblical text.’

(b) The competent audience – the ‘hypothetical person who knows just enough of the Jewish Scriptures to grasp the point of Paul's quotations in their current rhetorical context.’

(c) The minimal audience – ‘...people in this category were aware of the high degree of respect given to the Scriptures in Christian circles. As a result, they would have been inclined to take seriously any argument that claimed to be grounded in the biblical text. But their ability to follow the argument of a passage laced with quotations would have been limited.’

Richard Hays has suggested that, “The implied readers of these letters appear to be primarily Gentile Christians with an extensive knowledge of the LXX and an urgent interest in interpretation.” Is this a valid assumption? Does this work for all the letters of Paul or the New Testament, or just some of the letters?  The question remains, what type of audience will be able to recognise, recall, connect, assess and trust Paul’s intertextual reading? 


Laura said...

I know this is an older post, but I'm currently thinking through these issues as I work on issues of intertextuality (but in the Gospel of John) for my thesis.

I find it interesting that Stanley says that it's only the marked references that Paul's audience would recognize. I would think it would be the opposite, that Paul would not need to mark references that he assumed his audience (or at least the leaders among them) would recognize. I checked and Arguing with Scripture isn't where the library catalog says it should be. Do you remember how he supports this argument?

Sean said...

Hi Laura, thanks for your comment. A paper from Stanley about this very issue can be found here:

The key questions are: Did people have copious amounts of access to the LXX in the ancient world? Who could read these texts, if they had access to them? The LXX corpus is quite large, was there enough time for them to actually study all the sections from which Paul quotes/alludes? Why should we assume that Gentile Christian communities, like that of Philippi and Thessalonica, would understand such texts as intertextual?

I'm not sure what your take on the "Johannine" community is, but if, following Bauckham, they were addressed to a wider Christian community, is there any way to tell if the audience would pick up on the quotation/allusion? And lastly, the hardest question, where is the quotation/allusion? Is it in the author's intentions, the text, or in the reader?

I hope that helps.

Laura said...

Thank you, that's very helpful!

I wonder, though, if the concept of mimesis is helpful in reconstructing what kind of use of previous texts ancient audiences would have expected, and been expected to follow. But maybe, that, too, is limited to elite audiences.

And yes, I agree with you about the hardest question! Efforts to deal with that question seem to inevitably bring some circularity into the analyses.

Thank you for the conversation!