Parallel discussions in the blogosphere about Parallelism

Enns

Enns (Photo credit: mag3737) or Ens?

It started here with McGrath speaking about Brodie’s aptness to resort to parallelism, a term coined by Sandmel. The Shape responded here by saying,

“It’s not the process of parallelomania that I dislike but rather the term itself. It is not helpful and is dismissive in its nature.”

McGrath responded. The Shape responded.

And now, let me respond. First, I want to point out to you something rather odd

Petrus Ens, a Reformed professor in Harderwijk, had been accused of teaching Socinian theses [in the middle of the 18th century]. While the case of Stinstra [a minister removed from office for doctrinal reasons] caused a great commotion throughout the country, Ens was a little combative; when it appeared that he maintained his refusal to withdraw his statements, he was quietly removed from the academy (1741). It is the only time in the history of the Reformed Church after the Synod of Dordrecht that a theological professor in the Netherlands was dismissed for his doctrine.

Let that sink in. Now, read it again, like this:

Peter Enns, a Reformed professor in Westminster, had been accused of teaching a post-modern theses. While the case of Pahl [a minister removed from office for doctrinal reasons] caused a great commotion throughout the country, Enns was a little combative; when it appeared that he maintained his refusal to withdraw his statements, he was quietly removed from the academy (2008). It is the only time in the history of the Reformed Church after the Westminster Confession that a theological professor in the United States was dismissed for his doctrine.

Both are true stories. Entirely true. Both.

So, what to do with parallelism? First, The Shape may be correct in suggesting it is a cheap shot and Sandmel does not help his case when he says,

“…that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction…we are at a junction when biblical scholarship should recognise parallelomania for the disease that it is.”

However, there are some that are truly diseased – Joseph Atwill, Ralph Ellis, and others — but there are those who correctly call out parallelism (sometimes Brodie, myself, etc…). Is there a better term? Doubtful, but can it be better used?

Yes. As I pointed in out my book, I am timid in approaching certain instances in Mark because connecting it too much to the outside world could be construed as parallelism. But, there are times when things are truly parallel.

Look at the account of Petrus Ens and Peter Enns, both professors at Reformed institutions. Both were fired for teaching something other than the approved theology. In hundred years, or two thousand, would you say scholars researching Peter Enns are practicing parallelism?

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Post By Joel Watts (10,059 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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2 thoughts on Parallel discussions in the blogosphere about Parallelism

  1. I would just like to reiterate again that my problem is not with people who argue against a parallel but rather the pejorative use of the term parallelomania. I will go further into this with a post in a couple of days.

    It is a tough issue and I think someone touched on this in one of the other posts that noting parallels is different from claiming literary dependence. Noting parallels is an interesting exercise but to claim dependence requires a lot more work. I use a list of criteria to measure a claim of dependence against in order to make sure a claim I am investigating isn’t excessive. Obviously, no matter the amount of criteria, data can be interpreted in many ways and I may claim dependence where others don’t. The reverse is also true.

    From my own perspective I think we are only starting to get a handle on how ancient texts were written and how they relate to one another. Virgil wrote at a rate of one line per day such was his meticulousness. Lucan is recognised as alluding to Virgil with the subtlety of one word. Yet in biblical studies people would still rather invoke hypothetical liturgical traditions than seriously entertain the notion that Mark’s Eucharist may be dependent on Paul’s. I’m not saying (for the purpose of this comment at least) that they are but that the question is valid and terms like parallelomania hinder open and honest research. There’s a subtlety to ancient literature that is lost on the modern reader because of out obsession with originality (and fear of getting sued for plagiarism). What we need to do is separate the wheat from the chaff. Where is a parallel deliberate and where is it coincidence. I think that rigid application of criteria can aid in this by helping to determine what is plausible and what makes sense. I wouldn’t advocate parallels for the sake of parallels.

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