Campbell-why no written cues to satire?

I am summarizing and commenting on the articles in the book Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul, which discusses Douglas Campbell’s proposal for interpreting Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

Douglas Campbell’s claim that Paul placed a satiric, parodied version of an opponents argument in Romans 1-3 is unlikely because Paul would have given us written cues to his satire as other ancient writers do.  This is the essence of Robin Griffith-Jones critique of Douglas Campbell in a chapter called “Beyond Reasonable Hope of Recognition.”

In response Campbell clarifies his position.

“My thesis, then, suitably clarified is that Romans 1:18-3:20 is best construed as a broadly Socratic argument that refutes an opponent in terms of his demonstrable self-contradictions.  And it begins by presenting a particular position occupied by that person, which will be the basis for the contradictions demonstrated later on. . . .”

He admits that Griffith-Jones shows that many authors who used parody did give cues to it in their written work.  Among the points Campbell makes is that these were in works meant for publication and Romans was not meant for publication.  And he points out that logic does not require that because sometimes authors included formal written cues, such had to be the case all the time.

Campbell’s main argument is that the older ways of understanding Romans all have fatal flaws and that his theory is the best available way to give the Roman letter coherence.  He challenges others to come up with a better reading.

In that regard Griffith-Jones points out something that will possibly help.  He says that throughout Romans Paul defends himself against the charge that his gospel is libertine, that it dissolves moral boundaries.  This is why Paul says he is not ashamed of his gospel (1:16) and says some slander him by saying that he is okay with doing harm (3:8), that there is no need for moral struggle (6:1) and even that God is unjust (9:14).

These slanders against his gospel must be very much a part of what Paul perceives as targets for his satire in Romans.  So this may be a useful part of discerning the thrust of his argument.

Griffith-Jones says he develops this “therapeutic” theory of Romans in an article: “Keep Up Your Transformation”.

I am thinking about how this will work.  I still have not got to what Campbell really thinks is the occasion for Paul’s letter.

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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3 Responses to Campbell-why no written cues to satire?

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

  2. Douglas Campbell says:

    Thanks for engaging with my work. But I would add that there ARE cues to satire/parody. One of my key claims is that we lose sensitivity to these when we are no longer in the culture where the parody is taking place. The key for parody is not announcement (!) – obviously. It’s extension. Comic effects – which parody doesn’t have to pursue in the ancient world, but often did – is achieved by this exaggeration, which comes across, when it’s well done, as amusing. Think Stephen Colbert. But we lose the ability to catch these when we lose total familiarity with the surrounding culture. So non-American’s don’t find The Colbert Report funny. They don’t know what the joke is because they are not reading the comic extension/subtle exaggeration (or, they find the extension too much in relation to how their own culture achieves parody, so they know it’s a parody but find it clumsy and unamusing). Romans 1:18-32 is pretty over the top when you get into it. To mention just one feature: it’s VERY sexually explicit. Eye-watering. So I find it interesting that Juvenal employs the same technique extensively. Arguably, this is a parodic signal. Etc. etc.

    • I am honored that you responded. Thank you for the enormous thought and energy you have devoted to this topic. I am trying to figure out Paul, whom I agree has been badly distorted by those who read him as attacking Judaism.

      When I am unpersuaded by a scholar, I try not to be aggressive about it. I hope it comes across more as “Hmmm, I am not sure about that.”
      But in the Corinthian correspondence, for instance, I can usually see the views that are counter to Paul’s even reading in English translation. I am having more trouble with Romans. I am going to be driven to read Deliverance to find out how you deal with the historical circumstances surrounding Romans, which is my deeper interest.

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