This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology. You can visit my web pages here, but note that they are not kept up-to-date.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"we passages", Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus, & W.S. Campbell

Here I discuss a paper by William Campbell, "The Narrator as "He", "ME," and "We": Grammatical Person in Ancient Histories and in the Acts of the Apostles", JBL 129, no. 2 (2010): 385-407. I will use Campbell's observations to show that the author of Acts was present during the events of the "we passages" and at other times too.

A writer can refer to himself/herself in the first person singular ("I", "me"), the first person plural ("we", "us"), or using the third person, as Richard does now. Campbell explores the styles of self-reference by the ancient historians, Thucydides, Polybius, and Josephus, and compares them with Acts. He distinguishes two types of self-designation: narrator level and event level.

Narrator level
Narrative-level self-reference is when the author refers to himself in his capacity as author/narrator. Campbell gives examples from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War: "Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war..."; "the earliest sea battle of those we know". Campbell tells us that Polybius referred to himself frequently (using first person singular) at the narrator level. E.g. "I was persuaded to write"; "I do not think it seemly...". Examples from Josephus include, "as we said previously"; "I would not hesitate to say"; "we Jews".

Concerning Acts, Campbell writes,
Another difference between Acts and the four texts analyzed is how infrequently first person (singular or plural) appears at the narrator level. The narrator rarely intrudes in the story to offer commentary, which compels the narrative to stand on its own merits. Only two instances each of first person singular and plural narrator-level comments occur in Luke and Acts, and these are located in the prefaces (Luke 1:1-3 and Acts 1:1).
My interpretation:
Luke's reluctance to intrude with narrator level self-reference should come as no surprise since his works, like the other gospels, are anonymous. Baum (Nov. Test. 50 (2008)) argues that the purpose of this anonymity was to give priority to the subject matter. Excessive self-reference would distract attention from the narrated events.

Event level
Event level self-reference is when the author refers to his own participation in the historical events. Campbell shows that the third person is generally preferred:
Large sections of War are devoted to Josephus's involvement in the conflict, and once again, as was the case in Thucydides and Polybius, event-level passages with Josephus as a character - indeed the main character and protagonist - are narrated in the third person. One brief example is the account of his appointment as commander of Galilee: "John, son of Ananias, was appointed commander of Gophna and Acrabetta, and Josephus, son of Matthias, of each of the two Galilees" (J.W. 2.568).
Here is an example from Thucydides:
4.104.4 The opponents of the betrayers .... sent to the other commander of the areas in Thrace, Thucydides, son of Olorus .... 
Campbell gives the following passage from Polybius, which has striking parallels with Acts.

36.11.1 When instructions arrived in the Peloponnese from Manilius for the Achaeans that they would do well to send Polybius the Megalopolitan with Haste to Lilybaeum, as there was need of him for affairs of state, the Achaeans resolved to send him in accordance with the petition of the consul. 36.11.2 We, thinking it our duty for many reasons to obey the Romans, putting aside all other matters, set sail when summer began. 36.11.3 Arriving in Corcyra and finding there a letter from the consuls that had been sent to the Corcyraeans in which they made quite clear that the Carthaginians had already handed over the hostages to them and were prepared in every way to obey them, 36.11.4 thinking that the war had been brought to end and there was no further any need of uswe sailed back again to the Peloponnese.

My interpretation:
Since Luke refers to himself very sparingly at the narrator level we should expect him to do the same at the event level. Therefore he may well have been present for more of the events than he indicates. If Luke was present only for the 'we passages', as is commonly assumed, he mentioned his presence at every available opportunity, and this would not be consistent with his tendency to minimize self-reference. Indeed, I have argued before, here, that the author of Acts was present with Paul on his journey to Troas (Acts 16:1-9) before the "we passage" of Acts 16:10ff, and was again present in Achaia (Acts 20:3-4) before the "we passage" of Acts 20:6ff). 

Since these historians referred to themselves by name at the event level, we should be open to the possibility that Luke did too (albeit more sparingly than the other historians). The convention of anonymity followed by Luke and the other gospel writers required that the author not be identified (obviously). However, it did not require that no reference should be made to the author by name, because otherwise no-one would have accepted the view that the fourth gospel was written by John, or that the first was written by Matthew. I have argued that Luke did indeed refer to himself by name once (Lucius of Acts 13:1).

Of the three forms of self-reference available to Luke (first person singular, first person plural, and third person), first person plural was the least obtrusive. It was the form that drew least attention to the author as an individual and so we should not be surprised that Luke preferred it.

The passage from Polybius above is particularly interesting because the author switches to the first person plural at precisely the point where he sets sail, just as Luke does (Acts 16:10; 20:6; 27:1). This supports the view of Vernon Robbins that first person narrative was preferred for sea voyages (but not his view that the author need not have been present on the voyage).

It seems to me, therefore, that Acts combines the conventions of the historians about styles of self-reference with the convention of the gospels about limiting self-reference. He limits narrator level self-reference to his prefaces, and gives his name (Lucius/Luke) only once (Acts 13:1). He chose to make explicit reference to his participation only for sea voyages and their aftermath, where convention allowed him to use the relatively unobtrusive first person plural. For land events he omitted reference to himself completely, not because he was absent, but because convention required the use of the third person, "Lucius", which he did not want to overdo.

Campbell's evidence shows that when historians used the first person they were indeed claiming to have been participants of the events described. Therefore, Luke was (claiming to be) present. This is, in any case, common sense.

Campbell's deductions about Acts
It is therefore baffling that Campbell uses the same data to conclude that:
The analysis of grammatical practice by Thucydides, Polybius, and Josephus raises questions about the traditional argument that the first person plural undeniably documents historical eyewitnessing.
 His reasoning seems to be this:
If the author of Acts wished to lift up his historical presence at and involvement in events, the grammatical guidance offered by Thucydides, Polybius, and Josephus would seem to be that he identify himself by name, associate himself unmistakably with the narrator character, and report events in which he claims participation primarily in the third person.
 He assumes that "the author of Acts never appears as a third person actor in the narrative".

Campbell has failed to make allowance for Luke's desire to avoid excessive self-reference that would detract from the centrality of his subject matter. I have shown above that Luke follows the grammatical guidance of the other historians as much as was possible without obtrusive self-reference.

Moreover, Campbell does not explain how the "we passages" could have been understood by the original readers as implying anything other than the actual presence of the author.

Campbell's paper is valuable because he has made some important observations about the styles of self-designation employed by ancient historians. It is a real pity that his analysis of Acts misses the point completely.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Summary of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis

This is the last post in the present series exploring whether "Titus" and "Timothy" were one person or two. Here I summarize the evidence with links to the more detailed analysis given in earlier posts.

Titus in 2 Corinthians
Paul refrains from identifying anyone who helped him with the collection, leaving the three "brothers" of 2 Cor 8:18-22 and 2 Cor 12:18 conspicuously anonymous (presumably to protect the collection). In Paul's Aegean period the name "Titus" appears only in connection with two visits to Corinth in which he organized the collection (2 Cor 8:6, 16-17), and this raises the possibility that the name serves to obscure his identity (from outsiders). The complete absence of the name "Titus" from Acts and from Romans increases the suspicion that this was not the name by which he was generally known.

In 1 Corinthians Paul anticipates a visit by Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11), and in 2 Corinthians he records the return of Titus from Corinth. The following considerations demonstrate that these two visits are the same.
  • In 1 Corinthians Paul expects Timothy to visit Corinth when he (Paul) is about to leave Ephesus for Macedonia. We learn from 2 Cor 2:12-13 that Titus's visit to Corinth had been expected in the same timeframe.
  • Titus's visit to Corinth was associated with Paul's planned visit that never materialized (Paul did not want to visit Corinth until Titus and the "letter of tears" had prepared the Corinthians for his visit, so he cancelled this visit when Titus was delayed). Timothy's visit to Corinth was also associated with Paul's planned visit that never materialized (see 1 Cor 4:17-21 and consider the rather apologetic way Paul explains that he will not be coming to them until after his visit to Macedonia, 1 Cor 16:5-8).
  • Paul carried out the travel plan that he gave to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 16:5-9, so the cancelled visit was to have been before 1 Corinthians. This is confirmed by the fact that the travel plan of 2 Cor 1:15-16 was the same, but with the addition of a (cancelled) visit.
  • Timothy was expected in Corinth when the collection was about to start (1 Cor 16:1-3), and Titus started the collection there (2 Cor 8:6).
  • 2 Cor 7:13-14 suggests that Paul had been more confident than Titus about the prospects for Titus's visit to Corinth. 1 Cor 16:10 says the same thing about Timothy.
  • Timothy's mission (1 Cor 4:17) was to remind the Corinthians of Paul's ways in Christ (1 Cor 4:9-13) so that they would become imitators of Paul (1 Cor 4:16). Paul tells the Corinthians that he had sent the tearful letter (with Titus) "in order that your zeal for us might be made known to you before God". Timothy's mission was to encourage zeal for Paul's ways in Christ, and Titus's mission was to encourage zeal for Paul. These two missions are identical because Paul makes no distinction between himself and his ways in Christ. Update: More specifically, there are good reasons to believe that Timothy was sent to Corinth to counter licentiousness there (see here), and that Titus's mission had the same purpose (see here).
The resulting reconstruction of Paul's interactions with the Corinthians avoids duplications and multiplication of assumptions. See also my "Was Titus Timothy?"JSNT 81 (2001).

I argued here that the Titus-Timothy hypothesis makes it unnecessary to partition 2 Corinthians after 2 Cor 2:13, 2 Cor 6:13, or 2 Cor 8:24.

Titus-Timothy also explains the change of tone after 2 Cor 10:1. At the time of 2 Corinthians Paul was sending Titus back to Corinth to revive the collection. This required that Titus stay on good terms with the Corinthians. This need to preserve the good relationship between Titus and the Corinthians explains why Paul records Titus's report as being so positive (2 Cor 7:5-16). Paul needed to distance Titus from his own criticisms of the Corinthians to avoid any backlash against Titus. If Titus was Paul's co-sender, Timothy (2 Cor 1:1), it makes sense that Paul held back his harsh criticisms of the Corinthians until chapters 10-13, which begin with the words, "I myself Paul", indicating that Paul took sole responsibility for what followed. In these final four chapters Paul detaches himself from his co-sender, Timothy, and probably takes the pen from the scribe, and rebukes the Corinthians without the risk of jeopardizing the relationship between Timothy and the Corinthians. This makes perfect sense of Timothy was Titus, who was on a delicate mission to revive the collection. We see Paul employ the same tactics in Philippians, which also anticipates a visit of Paul's co-sender to the addressed church. 

The Titus-Timothy hypothesis explains the remarkable observation that the cases of first person singular (I, me) in 2 Corinthians all fall into one of two categories. There are cases where Paul is being demanding or critical of the Corinthians, and there are references to times when Titus was not present.

1 Thessalonians was written in response to information provided by Timothy, who had just returned from Thessalonica. Thus Timothy probably played a role in the writing of the letter, and this explains why the letter is written almost entirely in the first person plural (the "we" referring to Paul and his co-sender, Timothy). Paul wrote 2 Corinthians using information reported to him by Titus. The predominance of the first person plural (we, us) in 2 Corinthians is therefore explicable if Titus was Paul's co-sender, Timothy. For more on "I" and "we" in 2 Corinthians, see here.

In 2 Cor 12:16-18 Paul defends Titus's conduct and includes Titus in the "we". Then at 2 Cor 12:19 we read, "Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you?". This suggests that Titus was Paul's co-sender, Timothy. See here.

In 2 Cor 12:18 Paul adds that he sent "the brother" with Titus. This makes sense if this journey of Titus and the anonymous brother was the journey of Timothy and Erastus, recorded in Acts 19:22. Erastus, being a Corinthian treasurer (Rom 16:23), was trusted by the Corinthians in money matters, and would oversee the collection. Paul mentions him in 2 Cor 12:18 to prove that he had no intention of using Titus to embezzle collection funds.

Titus in Galatians
Gal 2:1-5 and Acts 16:1-3 give some corroborating evidence that Titus was Timothy. They show that Titus, like Timothy, was an uncircumcised early associate of Paul and was probably known to the Galatians.

Furthermore, Timothy's mixed parentage and his role as missionary partner of Paul suggest that he too was from Antioch, and his presence in Lystra when Paul arrived is explicable if he was Titus and had been sent to south Galatia to organize the collection referred to in Gal 2:10 and 1 Cor 16:1-2.

There are hints in Gal 2:1-5 that Titus, like Timothy, had mixed Jew-Gentile heritage.
  • This Jerusalem visit was to discuss circumcision and this question would have been particularly relevant to someone like Timothy, with mixed parentage.
  • The 'not even' (οὐδὲ) in Gal 2:3 may imply that Titus was the most likely person to require circumcision.
  • Gal 2:3 can be punctuated to yields a smooth reading: "who with ME was a Greek" (Hutson) or "who was accompanying me as a Gentile" (Askwith), suggesting that Titus was able also to pass as a Jew.
  • The spying of the false brothers in Gal 2:4-5 could refer to the discovery of the fact that Titus was uncircumcised.
It is surely no coincidence that the name "Timothy" is a very likely name to be given to Titus. The two names had a phonetic similarity (compare Silas-Silvanus etc.). Also, "Timothy" means "honoring God", which is an appropriate name for this faithful convert, especially at the time when his uncircumcised state was a matter of controversy. The giving of the name "Timothy" to Titus is paralleled by other cases of renaming in the early church and elsewhere.

Objections to the Titus-Timothy hypothesis
2 Tim 4:10 shows that the author of the Pastoral Epistles thought that there was a Titus who was not Timothy. However, the author was quite distant from Timothy, and would probably not have known that Timothy's earlier name had been "Titus". And even if he had known, he might still have incorrectly inferred from 2 Corinthians (or from Galatians) that there was another Titus among Paul's co-workers.

Herman von Lips has offered four counter-arguments, but they do not apply to the Titus-Timothy hypothesis in its present form.

Titus was Timothy. This hypothesis, which was first proposed by Udo Borse in 1980, deserves a lot more attention than it has received. A biography of Titus-Timothy is given here.