Intertextuality and the Art of Persuasive Argumentation: SBL Paper

Intertextuality and the Art of Persuasive Argumentation: SBL Paper March 29, 2013

Here’s the abstract of a second paper that I will be presenting at SBL in November, in a session on “Intertextuality and the Art of Persuasive Argumentation” organized by the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section:

“Reading a Letter Quoting a Hymn Quoting Scripture: Intertextuality and Persuasion in Philippians 2:6-11”

The passage in Philippians 2:6-11 has been subjected to detailed scrutiny from a number of perspectives, often focusing on distinct but not ultimately unrelated questions: Is it quoting an already-existing hymn? Is its Christology one of pre-existence? How does the exalted status it attributes to Jesus relate to Jewish monotheism? How do its echoes of Jewish scripture relate to its meaning? This paper seeks to bring these several perspectives on the passage together, asking how the oral delivery of ancient letters would affect hearers’ perception of the meaning of quotations and allusions embedded within them, and as a consequence, how this would impact the persuasiveness or otherwise of the epistle’s argument. The persuasive effect of utilizing authoritative Scripture depended on either agreeing with the meaning of the texts echoed as it would be perceived by the hearer, or otherwise clearly transforming and reinterpreting the texts’ meaning, so as to use them to persuade the audience to draw the new conclusions advocated. The paper seeks to demonstrate that the texts echoed in Philippians 2:6-11 are used in the former rather than the latter manner, and will discuss the implications for our understanding of Pauline Christology.


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  • Wonderful! Wish I could hear you give this one. The “new conclusions advocated” in reverbs and echoes of old conclusions is fascinating. Seems to be the writer’s method throughout this letter, no? But I love your focus on the particular text(s) of Philippians 2:6-11!

    • I am already excited about this! I think that bringing together several of my interests – monotheism, Christology, intertextuality, and orality – in relation to this passage and how it seeks to persuade readers/hearers turns up some interesting things. Sorry for not being more specific in the abstract. It was not an attempt to keep my cards close to my chest – it just reflects the fact that, as so often with conference papers, the abstract had to be submitted well before many of the details had begun to be fleshed out in my mind.

  • John Meade

    James, we may actually agree on this :). I will be reading a paper in Munich in August at IOSCS so I will not be in Baltimore in November. I hope your reading goes well.

  • Philippians 2:6 strongly echoes Genesis 3:5,22. (The thought struck me today when Phil 2 was read during Good Friday service.) I recall that James Dunn has said something on this, so did a quick search, and found this right on top:

  • Also, Chapter 14 of the following new work explores the Epistle to the Philippians. I’d be interested to read what you think of Price’s summation of scholarly opinion concerning that epistle: