John D. Harvey, Listening to the Text: Oral Patterning in Paul's Letters (Evangelical Theological Society studies series, David W. Baker, ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998. 357 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8010-2200-2. $24.95.
This note is intended to alert our readers to a book that is going out of print, but is still available over the Internet. In fact, it can be had with shipping for under six dollars, less than one-fourth its original price. In this reviewer's opinion, it is well worth it.
Harvey's book brings together many of the structural insights explored by previous scholars on several Pauline epistles, namely the epistles accepted as genuine by biblical critics. Therefore, Harvey deals with Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. First, he presents a structural suggestion on the epistle as a whole. Here, his presentation is not always as broad as one might hope. New Testament scholarship has sometimes presented more structural options for the epistle as a whole than Harvey explores. However, the presentation is helpful.
Second, he goes through the epistle dealing with structural suggestions for numerous passages within the epistle. This material is usually quite detailed. Here he presents specific examples of chiasms, inversions, alternations, inclusions, ring-compositions, word-chains, refrains and concentric symmetries. Suggestions made by Belleville, Betz, Bruce, Ellis, Fee, Funk, Hurd, Jeremias, Jewett, Kummel, Longnecker, Ludemann, Lund, Martin, Talbert, Wannamaker, Welch and numerous other scholars are all included. Thankfully, most of the suggestions are simply structural. However, as he is presenting opinions given by various scholars, some of the chiasms and other structures suggested do not arise from the Greek text. Still, many of them do. (And the Greek is printed out in Greek characters.) Thus, while you need to remain critical, the reader should find these chapters helpful.
In addition, these chapters are introduced with several sections on the historical background and definition of the literary structures mentioned above. They are quite thorough and useful in their own right. If you don't understand what a ring-composition is, here's your chance.
Of course, the book is dedicated to presenting literary structures. The reader retains the job of theological reflection and detailed interpretation. Yet, for what the book offers, it is very helpful. It is especially useful to have all this material together in one volume. If this interests you, get on the Internet and check it out, while you still have a chance.
Scott F. Sanborn