no preference to harmonisations over interpolations?

I’m currently reading The Empty Tomb which seems to be one of the most popular anti-apologetics books on the topic of Jesus’ resurrection. I’ll be using the ‘pad as and when to write about the arguments and help me process my thoughts on them.

Right now I’m just dissecting a chapter by Robert Price where he argues that 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is an interpolation. If true this would significantly affect debates about the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection; this passage is generally seen as an important insight into very early Christian belief. I’m reading from the Kindle version but I presume page references transfer to the physical copy as well.

Price starts off with a methodological discussion on whether there is any reason to prefer a harmonisation hypothesis to an interpolation hypothesis for a textual problem. He sees no reason to make such a preference and seems to suggest that one only does through apologetic agenda rather than epistemological rigour.

I think he’s mistaken. Occam’s Razor favours the simpler theory and, all other things beings equal, a harmonisation hypothesis is simpler than an interpolation hypothesis. A harmonisation hypothesis allows the problem texts to be authored by the author of the works in which the texts appear. An interpolation hypothesis posits not only the author of the surrounding work, but also a later author or scribe who inserted or modified a text for some motive. Interpolation hypotheses can become increasingly complicated when you analyse what that motive would have been and how the author/scribe thought they could get away with it.

It seems to me then that all things being equal one should prefer a harmonisation hypothesis to an interpolation hypothesis. And one cannot merely scoff at a harmonisation assuming a priori that it is some piece of apologetic sophistry, one must show why it is suspect on exegetical/logical grounds.

More to come…


3 thoughts on “no preference to harmonisations over interpolations?

  1. Interesting. I would also add that Richard Carrier’s argument is based more on methodological skepticism than it is honest textual criticism. If Richard Carrier believes that the passage is an interpolation then he has it show it with by examining the manuscripts that we have. If some manuscripts don’t have that passage or what not then there is good reason to suspect interpolation. Otherwise his argument is simply bare assertion that no or few reputable scholars accept.

  2. I agree that Carrier seems unduly skeptical. Seeing as he admits there is no manuscript evidence in favour of his view he needs to make a really strong case based on internal evidence. I don’t think he pulls it off (though there are some smaller details of his argument that I don’t have the knowledge to assess either way.)

  3. Okay SOMEHOW I thought Carrier was the author of this chapter, but actually Robert Price is. Dunno how I got that confused. Possibly because I remember Carrier claiming that he thought this passage was an interpolation (or part of it) in a debate… possibly with JPH… or maybe Licona. Eh I can’t remember. Making the necessary edits now.

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