BMCR 2005.08.28

Response: Alcock on Knust on Krueger

Response to 2005.08.09

Response by

In her review of Krueger’s book (which I have not read) Ms Knust quotes a passage from Colossians 2,14 in connection with ‘scribal acts’ as an essential element in soteriology. The Colossians, evangelized by Epaphras, had apparently slipped into heresy, and Paul’s letter is an attempt to rescue them from it, by dwelling at length on the supremacy of Christ. In section 2,8 Paul warns them about succumbing to ‘philosophy … empty deceit … the tradition of human beings’ and goes on to tell them (2,14) that God has ‘blotted out the handwritten text (cheirographon) with teachings (dogmata) against us’. The whole passage refers to purely human wisdom (a slightly veiled reference to Judaism), which is to be superseded by divine wisdom (Christianity). The letters of Paul are full of this sort of anti-semitism, and this one is no exception.

If this passage is to be described in any way at all as a ‘scribal act’, it is a fairly negative one involving deletion only, because rewriting is not mentioned in the passage. It is one of the drawbacks (or advantages, depending on your point of view) of using opaque phrases such as ‘scribal act’ that they tend to have a wide range of meanings: in this case one thinks of picking up the pen, dipping it into the ink, writing letters, words and sentences, crossing them out, rewriting/changing them, and so on. The only ‘scribal act’ involved here would be the destruction of the Torah, ‘nailed to the cross’. In some ways, of course, this sort of extreme language does in fact pave the way for the rabid anti-semitism, largely designed for simpletons, which is to be found in no small quantity, for example, in Coptic homiletic/hagiographical texts.