Critique of P. N. Harrison

This is a guest post from Jermo van Nes (great name!), who is nearing completion of his PhD  at Evangelische Theologische Faculteit (Leuven) under the supervision of Armin Baum.

 

In a recent article, I questioned the ever-growing reliance of contemporary New Testament scholars on P.N. Harrison’s 1921 doctoral dissertation The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles (see http://www.brill.com/paul-and-pseudepigraphy or the pre-print version https://www.academia.edu/3614258/The_Problem_of_the_Pastoral_Epistles_An_Important_Hypothesis_Reconsidered). In this landmark study, Harrison argued by means of statistics that the Pastorals are based on some genuine Pauline fragments but in their final form are the product of a Paulinist living in the early years of the second century. The lasting impact of Harrison’s work is evidenced by the ongoing scholarly use of his statistical argument to support the Pastorals’ (semi-)pseudonymity.

In the article it is documented how scholars have criticized the statistical argument of Harrison as it appeared to be flawed by methodological problems. One scholar that pointed out some of these is James Gilchrist, of whom Howard Marshall says in his ICC commentary that his work “has been undeservedly ignored”. Accepted in 1966 as a doctoral dissertation supervised by professor F. F. Bruce of Manchester University, Gilchrist’s Authorship and Date of the Pastoral Epistles offers a detailed critique of Harrison’s statistical argument. According to Gilchrist, Harrison managed to produce such an impressive case against the Pastorals’ authenticity only because he was able to reuse his arguments in different forms. Also, he shows why some of Harrison’s comparisons are incorrect and/or unnecessary (see especially pages 27-61).

For those who would like to read Gilchrist’s dissertation in full, it is now freely available online at http://ethos.bl.uk/Home.do. The comments given by Gilchrist are a welcome addition to those presented by Harrison’s better-known critics like Hitchcock, Michaelis, Guthrie, Metzger, and Spicq, to name but a few.

Speak Your Mind

*