Paul And The “Testimonia:” Quo Vademus? -- By: David Lincicum

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:2 (Jun 2008)
Article: Paul And The “Testimonia:” Quo Vademus?
Author: David Lincicum


Paul And The “Testimonia:” Quo Vademus?

David Lincicum*

* David Lincicum is a doctoral student at the University of Oxford and resides at Withymill House, Dadbrook, Cuddington, Bucks HP18 OAG, United Kingdom.

For well over a century, various scholars have proposed that Paul and other NT authors may have made use of collections of excerpted quotations or topically arranged testimonia rather than having direct recourse to the OT. Though the theory has been set forth in varying forms, one recent proponent has suggested that “[t]he core of all testimonia hypotheses is the claim that early Christians did not use the Jewish scriptures as an undifferentiated whole, but rather selected, shaped, and interpreted certain passages in support of emerging Christian beliefs.”1 Clearly, then, such hypotheses form a prima facie challenge to any attempt to consider the NT authors as significantly engaged in holistic biblical interpretation. Some account of this nexus of theories is therefore germane to the question of Paul’s engagement with the OT. In this brief article, I shall offer a short review of the history of the question and set forth the testimonia hypothesis in its most promising form. Ultimately, however, such approaches are not able to provide a sufficient context for Paul’s scriptural engagements. A concluding attempt, therefore, is made to articulate an account of what alternative approaches must accomplish in order to successfully defend themselves against the challenge posed by such theories.2

I. The Rise And Fall Of The Testimony Book Hypothesis

The testimonia hypothesis received an early and sustained investigation at the hands of the industrious J. Rendel Harris.3 Building on the work of his predecessors,4 Harris took as his point of departure the observation that a number of oddities appear in the scriptural citations of the NT and the patristic period: shared variant readings (“peculiar texts”), recurrent

sequences of quotations, erroneous ascriptions of authorship, editorial comments repeated by various authors, and polemical or “controversialist” themes.5 For example, 1 Pet 2:6–8 presents a merged citation of Isa 28:16, Ps 118:22, and Isa 8:14

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