Volume 43 - Issue 2

Composite Citations in Antiquity. Volume Two: New Testament Uses

by Sean A. Adams and Seth M. Ehorn, eds.

This is the second in a two-volume investigation of composite citations in literature from antiquity. The first volume focussed on Graeco-Roman, Jewish, and early Christian uses between 350 BCE and 150 CE while excluding the use of composite citations in the New Testament, which is now explored in this second volume. Sean Adams and Seth Ehorn, who also edited the first volume, have gathered together an exciting ensemble of leading scholars. Some of the essays in this book, including the late Maarten Menken’s chapter on composite citations in Matthew, were presented at the Hawarden Seminar on the Old Testament in the New. This volume also includes chapters by Steve Moyise (Mark), Stanley Porter (Luke-Acts), Catrin Williams (Gospel of John), Mark Reasoner (Romans), Roy Ciampa (1–2 Corinthians and Galatians), and Susan Docherty (Hebrews). Each chapter is methodically structured around identifying and analysing each citation the author believes to be in composite form, which provides a heavier exegetical approach compared to the social and religious perspective of the first volume. This volume builds upon the investigations of its predecessor, especially Christopher Stanley’s concluding chapter which observed varying modes of composite citations. Adams and Ehorn highlight this second volume will make further distinctions between combined, conflated, and condensed citations (pp. 1–5); therefore, the authors of this volume section their study of composite citations into these categories. Docherty provides another category, “summarizing citations,” that offer an abridged version of the authoritative texts, which differs from amalgamation of the text in condensed citations (p. 203).

Reasoner provides a detailed comparison between composite citations and linked citations, where the author strings together two or more citations but are not presented a one single citation. Linked citations are a common feature in the New Testament and are distinct in their function to composite citations. Reasoner argues that a linked citation “expects exegetical energy from implied audience” and “asks [the] audience to make interpretive steps by explicitly juxtaposing different quotations” (p. 157). A composite citation, however, “presents a pre-mixed combination as Scripture, so less exegetical energy is asked of the readers/hearers” (ibid.). Reasoner’s distinction between the two modes of citation sheds helpful light on how and why the New Testament authors opt to use composite citations.

The approach to independently analysing individual citations provides an overlap by contributors regarding the same or similar composite citations used by different NT authors. For example, the three chapters dedicated to the synoptic gospels discuss parallel passages such as the use of composite citation of Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1 in Mark 1:2–3 (with Isaiah 40:3), Matthew 11:10, and Luke 7:27. Similar discussions also occur in relation to Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the Temple, and Jesus’s defence before the Sanhedrin. This provides Adams and Ehorn with a test case that highlights some of the blurred boundaries between composite citations and the varying perspectives of each author (pp. 233–36). It is clear the editors of this volume wished to provide a comparison to highlight the importance of reception history to the study of composite citations, as it is frequently discussed throughout this book.

The question of a composite citation’s source(s) is important to this volume. Each contributor comments on whether a composite citation should be attributed to the New Testament writer or an inherited source. Some of the authors rely on Martin Albl’s criteria from the previous volume for making decisions about the possible use of testimonia sources for composite citations; however, in some cases it appears the attribution of a composite citation to author or source rests upon whether the composite is used elsewhere in similar form or not. The book highlights the difficulty in attributing a composite citation to either author or source, with need for further methodological reflection due to the ambiguous origin of some citations.

Although this volume responds to most of Stanley’s challenges of exploring sources, origins, formations, and purposes, there is a lack of investigation of the New Testament “audience.” Volume one questioned whether audiences would understand or unpack the composite citations; however, except for a short section on audience expectation in the concluding chapter (pp. 229–31), this volume is less concerned with the social and religious implications of composite citations. Adams and Ehorn note the difficulties in associating the level of education of the audience to know whether they would identify the citation or even able to interpret the subsidiary texts within the citation; however, this study may have benefitted from current research in social memory and explore how communities read and recite texts.

Adams and Ehorn conclude this book with a chapter that harmonizes the major contributions and discussions of the two volumes. Firstly, they provide some quantitative findings of the number of citations and the percentile of composite citations in each New Testament book. Furthermore, they supply a detailed table numbering the types of composites in each book. Secondly, they summarize the qualitative findings in this volume. They briefly discuss the issue of inherited sources raised by the contributors and comment on the use of composite citation by a character or a narrator within a narrative. The summation of the study is that “Christian readers were actively associating and combining scriptural texts early in the interpretive process” and that “this practice pre-dates any of the New Testament works” (p. 214) and may have even been used by Jesus, which “might have influenced the practices of his followers” (p. 215). Thirdly, Adams and Ehorn present a detailed explanation of their refined definition of composite citations, which uses criteria of both form and function to distinguish composite citations from other similar phenomena. Finally, Adams and Ehorn propose avenues for future research. These avenues include areas that the editors decided to exclude from the two-volume study to limit the scope of the research. Most notable is the study of composite allusions, which has briefly received some attention in both volumes. Overall, Adams and Ehorn have contributed an exciting dynamic to the field of New Testament studies that will impact areas of research for students and scholars.

Anthony Royle

Anthony Royle
King’s Evangelical Divinity School
Broadstairs, Kent, UK

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