|The panel review of the book Exploring Intertextuality sponsored by the
Intertextuality in the New Testament Section at SBL-AAR 2016
|Collection of Essays on Method & Practice
born from papers and invited essays from the
Intertextuality in the NT Section of SBL
This past November, the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section featured a panel review of Exploring Intertextuality (2016), a collection of essays from papers read during the past four years of our sessions at the Society of Biblical Literature and some select invited essays. The goal of the book was to provide the landscape of diverse methodological approaches on intertextuality (if you need a primer on intertextuality, click here) and how these (post-)modern literary approaches help illuminate how New Testament authors quoted, alluded, and interpreted the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, Greco-Roman moral traditions, Homer’s epics, and other ancient texts to shape their respective messages. In an earlier post, I listed the select chapters from this book under review at the panel and the roster of panel participants.
Well, the panel was a resounding success. At one point, we had over 160+ fellow scholars and students attend the session. Within 2 hours after the session, the Wipf & Stock book table sold out on all copies. Wow!
I can’t go over the whole session, but I would say of the four chapters reviewed, the two that received the most “friendly fire” from the reviewers was the chapter on Mimesis by Dennis MacDonald (review by Karl Olav Sandnes) and Multidimensional Intertextuality by Erik Waaler (review by Stanley Porter). For the most part, the chapter on Midrashic Interpretation of Scripture by B.J. Oropeza and Lori Baron received a very favorably response from Craig Keener, who simply added that he saw other midrashic examples of intertextuality applied by the New Testament authors other than the specific type applied by the B.J. and Lori. Likewise, Nick Perrin gave a favorable review of the chapter on Metalepsis by Jeannine Brown and noted that while they both agree that the New Testament author evokes the backstory of the OT text which is alluded or quoted, the disagreement between exegetes who employ a maximalist approach to intertextuality is determining what part of the OT backstory that the NT author intends to highlight.
The real fireworks began, however, when Sandnes offered his review of MacDonald’s chapter on mimesis, which by way of a general definition, is the way ancient authors of a later period imitate or appropriate narrative elements of works from an earlier author, notably Homer (which MacDonald favors), but also Hesiod, Virgil, Ovid, and other Greco-Roman writers. Sandnes was dubious that Mark’s story of the Gerasene demoniac, for example, as MacDonald interprets it, stood as an imitation of various episodes of the Odysseus story but especially Odysseus’ encounter with the cyclops Polyphemus. There is a concern that the narrative elements common to Homer and Mark are simply plot points that are commonly shared across many other stories versus Mark’s intentional zeroing-in on the Odysseus account. Sandnes wonders if the comparisons between the two stories of Mark and Homer were becoming “more or less out of control.” MacDonald rehearsed the specific literary analogues drawn from Homer in his original essay but more intriguely, gave a call to the academy that they might think about intertextuality in a fundamentally different way.
It is this latter challenge by MacDonald that not only intrigued me the most but also the steering committee members of the section. In short, MacDonald did not find (post-)modern literary approaches to intertextuality helpful. He wanted scholars to examine how ancient authors themselves practiced intertextuality and see if the same ancient methods were applied by the New Testament writers.
In response to this challenge, I and some other steering committee members thought it would be worth devoting a few themed sessions to this very topic. For the SBL 2017 annual meeting in Boston, the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section in its call for papers is inviting paper proposals which give a description of ancient Jewish exegetical practices (e.g., rabbinic or midrashic techniques, methods by Hellenistic Jewish exegetes like Philo, and exegetical practices from any other ancient Jewish author) and which explain how a given NT author employs or modifies the same method in their own intertextual readings of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, or other ancient texts. For SBL 2018, the focus will be on ancient Greco-Roman exegetical practices, and I’m thinking of expanding my earlier blog post on this topic into a full paper for 2018.
In any case, I’m excited for the next two years of the section. I’m certain we’ll have some great papers and perhaps some of these can be revised into publishable essays for our next volume on exploring intertextuality. MJL