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Canonical Pseudonymity: Exemplarity in the Catholic Epistle Collection

RODENBIKER, KELSIE,GAYLE (2021) Canonical Pseudonymity: Exemplarity in the Catholic Epistle Collection. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 28 April 2024.


In the Catholic Epistles – James, 1–2 Peter, 1–3 John, and Jude – canonicity and exemplarity are intertwined. In part one of this thesis, I address the fraught role of the Catholic collection in the formation of the New Testament. Key antecedents prepared the ground for a sevenfold Catholic collection: the Muratorian fragment, the early manuscript tradition, and ancient references to “catholic epistles.” The first unambiguous designation of seven Catholic letters comes courtesy of Eusebius, but he relegates James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude to a group of ἀντιλεγόμενα, and this liminal status continues beyond the fourth century. The canonical process was not an inevitable plod toward a teleological end resulting in the now-familiar New Testament, and it is the perceived pseudonymity of the majority of the Catholic Epistles that throws a wrench in the gears. In part two, I show that pseudonymity is a facet of exemplarity, a rhetorical strategy involving the accumulation of tradition around characters of prestige. Pseudonymous exemplarity is at work in the apostolic author portraits of James, Peter, John, and Jude, while illustrative exemplarity is shown by positive and negative exemplars from the scriptural past. These exempla not only demonstrate the composite accumulation of tradition used in their characterization, they also reveal links to now-canonical and paracanonical material, beyond an intracanonical conception of “the New Testament use of the Old Testament.” Because of the diverse intertraditionality represented by the author portraits and illustrative scriptural exempla, there remains a sense of porousness that cannot be overcome by closure—even a fixed canonical boundary cannot seal off the permeability that results from the tethers between texts that become, for some, “canonical” and those that do not. Exemplarity in the Catholic Epistle collection is therefore inherently tied to its canonical reception.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Catholic Epistles, canon, exemplarity, pseudepigraphy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Apr 2021 11:18

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