By Edgar J. Goodspeed
University of Chicago Press
Published September 1937.
In dedicating his collected Letters to his friend Septicius, Pliny says, "You have often urged me to collect and publish my letters"—colligerem publicaremque. The science of New Testament Introduction has paid too little attention to the partplayed by publication in ancient life and in the development of the New Testament literature. We must not forget that there was really just as much difference in antiquity as there is now between a letter written and a letter published.
The scattered letters of Paul had no considerable effect upon developing Christian literature until someone thought of seeking them out, gathering them into acollection, and publishing them. That action had a very marked effect upon the production of further Christian writings, quite apart from the composition of the several letters by Paul a generation before. Of course, the mere undertaking of such a collection implies a developed Christian activity where it was made, and so has a value for the historian as well as for the interpreter.
Our concern with ithere is for its contribution to the science of Introduction, for which the making of that collection has as much importance as the writing
of almost any book in the New Testament. It was, of course, a significant thing for Paul to write his letters to Corinth, send them there, and experience their effects. They fell into the soil of the early Corinthian church and disappeared. But it wasa very different thing when, some thirty-five years later, someone had the acumen to seek out those letters and publish them as part of a Pauline letter-corpus. It was that act that made them active as literature and put them in the way of influencing Christian writing as they had never done before.
This long-neglected matter of the collection and publication of Paul's letters is of greatsignificance for New Testament Introduction, since it at once organizes the whole material into the works written before that event, and the ones that were written after it and under the influence—many of them, indeed, in imitation—of the newly published collection.
This is no external or mechanical principle of organization; for the forms, views, and groupings of all this subsequent literature showthe influence of the published Pauline letters. Not only does the personal letter become the model for the formal epistle, as Deissmann observed, but these later epistles are not for private use but for publication and circulation. Further, the Pauline letter-corpus became the model for a whole series of later letter-corpuses—those of the Revelation, Ignatius, John, the Pastorals. The recognitionof this sets all these groups of documents in new
perspectives. We perceive that they are not to be considered atomistically, as though they originated one document at a time; they came into being as corpuses and were published as such. This is plain in the case of Revelation, chapters 1-3; it is no less important to observe it in the Johannine and Pastoral corpuses. It is not withoutsignificance even for the Ignatian corpus as well.
In the published Pauline corpus, in short, we possess an instrument by which we can effect a new and fruitful reorganization of New Testament Introduction. It is such a reorganization that is undertaken in the present volume.
New Testament Introduction has suffered from a general tendency toward atomistic treatment. Cherished positions of variousorigins, traditional or critical, are found to be attended with what seem difficulties, and these are necessarily dealt with one by one and disposed of. The fault of this procedure obviously is that the investigator falls into the attitude of supposing that, if the one particular objection or difficulty under immediate scrutiny can be disposed of, the desired position is established. But of course...