Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Would Paul Mock?

Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 5

So is it really possible that Paul, as I have argued, is mocking an opponent rather than recounting his own vision? Even scholars who consider this to be Paul's own vision recognise there is some humour at work here. e.g. “By his faintly humorous tone he is ridiculing his opponents’ attempts to achieve acceptance in Corinth by claims to paranormal experience” (Barnett, NICNT, p562).

But would such mockery be understood by Paul's audience? “For every poet who sought to entertain audiences with sober and earnest perspectives on the world, it seems that there was always another just as happy to ridicule or ironize traditional pieties, or to test the limits of decorum, all in the service of drawing laughter from an audience. Such poets acheived their comic gaols through a variety of methods . . . but one of the most pervasive an enduring practices . . . was to compose poetry that mocked, abused, or otherwise satirised other people."  (Ralph Rosen, Making Mockery: The poetics of Ancient Satire. OUP 2007, p3)


While my particular suggestion is novel, minority reports in the literature show it's constituent parts have been considered before. In 1972 Hans Dieter Betz wrote: “In this wild and brilliant self parody, [Paul] demolishes presumptions of his adversaries. He restores his credibility by discrediting theirs through the use of the entire arsenal of irony, sarcasm and parody.” So Betz recognises here the presence of parody and mockery, but mistakes the target as Paul. Whereas both L Hermann, (“Apollos,” RSR 50 [1976] 330–36), and M Goulder, (NovT 36, 1994, 47-57) have argued that Paul is describing someone else (Apollos or another Christian) but without detecting the presence of mockery. 

Thus my claim that Paul is parodying the super apostles is not completely without support in the literature, and it is my assertion that most scholars have been too easily dismissive of Betz's thesis regarding parody, perhaps failing to account for the popularity of mockery as a rhetorical device in Greco-Roman society. Obviously I would need to do more work on these areas of argument to put this thesis on firmer standing, but life doesn't presently allow for that. If anyone has any insight into this I'd be very grateful for your thoughts in the comments!

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