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Samuel Conner | Fri, 06/11/2021 - 12:28 | Permalink

Thank you, Andrew; this is very helpful.

re: “ It’s quite possible that when a letter of Paul was read out for the first time in a church, the letter bearer added his or her own emphasis, clarification, or embellishment.”

I think I have read (IIRC, from Ben Witherington) the assertion that this certainly happened, since the authors of documents intended for public reading would have taken care that their intent was communicated accurately by the readers. Witherington thinks that Paul’s letters were “performed” by his authorized readers, whom he coached before entrusting his letters to them for delivery and performance — so that the “emphasis, clarification, or embellishment”  was pre-planned by the letter’s author in order to communicate the author’s intent. And, of course, the “let the reader understand” phrase in Matthew and Revelation suggests the existence of “supplementary” non-textual information needed to accurately communicate to the intended audience. (When I was younger and considerably more foolish, I thought that “the reader” meant “me”. LOL)

In my experience, a hallmark of the evangelical movement has been the conviction of the necessity of reading the Scriptures as if they were directly addressed to present-day readers. One communes with the Deity by means of His address to one in the Book. Give that up (for good reasons) and I think you rip the heart out of a lot of present-day evangelical piety. And I don’t think that would be a bad thing. But I think it’s a large cultural obstacle to a more intelligent and accurate engagement with the texts.  

> “Perhaps one day I will publish my own Narrative-Historical New Testament. ”

Perhaps a “way-point” on the road to this would be a set of marginal notes to one of the widely used current translations that indicate the contrast between present-day “Jesus and me” individualist interpretations of texts and the probable meanings of the texts in the minds of the writer and the first recipients. These notes could include alternative translations in specific cases in which the English rendering is overly influenced by the individualist mindset of the translators. 

 Perhaps start with the Gospel of Matthew for the sake of clearing up the massive and nearly universal misunderstandings about the meaning of the Olivet Discourse.  

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