Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

"I Left You in Crete": Narrative Deception and Social Hierarchy in the Letter to Titus

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

"I Left You in Crete": Narrative Deception and Social Hierarchy in the Letter to Titus

Article excerpt

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Behind every letter is a story, but behind a forged letter there are at least twoand one is a lie. The technique of the pseudonymous letter is to bridge surreptitiously the gap between the fiction it tells and the historical situation in which it seeks to have an effect. This is true for the NT letter to Titus.1 To analyze the rhetoric of Titus is to map this secret crossing in a particular case. The provocative and innovative readings of biblical "love stories" by Mieke BaI raise the question that motivates my treatment of the letter to Titus.2 In her work Lethal Love, BaI asks the question "Is there a relationship between ideological dominance and specific forms of representation?"3 With Bal's question and also her methods in mind, I rephrase her question for my purposes and my subject, namely, What is the relationship between (1) the pseudonymity of the letter to Titus, (2) the narrative of interaction between "Paul" and "Titus" that the letter implies, and (3) the social structures of hierarchy that the letter sets up? To put it another way: What happens when the audior writes and the authence hears the words "I left you in Crete"-especially if

neither has ever been there? To hint at the conclusion this article develops, a narratological reading of the epistle to Titus suggests mat the open-ended elements and time shifting of the episde to Titus ("anachronies" in the terms of a narratological reading), and the relationship portrayed between Paul and Tims inscribe the ideology of the letter so that narrative performs a foundational element in the rhetorical action of the letter.


A highly formalized reading of the letter to Titus makes clear the relation of the letter's duplicitous form to its rhetorical objectives: the duplicitous form of the letter to Titus is foundational to its advocacy of specific social manifestations of dominance. Umberto Eco has said that "[i]t is usually possible to transform a non-narrative text into a narrative one."4 This is doubly true for a pseudonymous letter: one letter, two stories-the narrative contained within the letter and the historical story of the location and effect of the forged letter. It is exactiy here, in the space between the historical and the fictional, that a combination of questions from historical criticism and from narratology can provide insights into the workings of the letter to Titus. Narratology has been "out of fashion" lately, largely because of the persuasive critiques of structuralism, which left narratology looking like yet another overconfident and underrelevant game that found the same truth (or the same deep structure) lying wimin everything it examined. Again, Bal is one of the few critics who has stood by narratology and met the critiques of structuralism directiy - not by denying them but by reconsidering the role of narratology.5 Without recapitolating her defense, suffice it to say that BaI makes it possible to understand narratology as a systematic tool to produce a paraphrase rather tiian to discover a structure. The question of whether the systematic paraphrases that narratology produces "are really there" misses the mark once it is conceived as a specific and strategic method rather than a general theory. This reduction of the autiiority of narratology is what makes it possible for narratology to retain its usefulness.

By combining these methods - that is, by comparing the story in Titus to a reconstruction of the historical situation of the letter- it is possible to bring to the foreground the relationship of pseudonymity and dominance, that is, the relationship of the narrative deception that the letter practices and the social hierarchy it strives to create or maintain.

II. Provenance and Program of the Letter to Titus

At the beginning, I should state my working position concerning the historical situation of the letter to Titus. …

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