Edsall, B A. (2019). Reading with a Forger: Christoph Pfaff and the reception of Colossians 2:16. Journal of Biblical Literature,138(4), 845-862. United States of America: Society of Biblical Literature. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.15699/jbl.1384.2019.9
The present article explores the reception of Col 2:16, reading it alongside the work of an eighteenth-century forger, Christoph Pfaff, who published four forged “fragments” of Irenaeus in 1715. The work of Pfaff and the later demonstration of his forgery by Adolf Harnack relate to the interpretation of Col 2:16, the former offering an ecumenically inclusive reading—which allowed variety within Christian calendar observance—and the latter doubting the historical plausibility of such a reading. The majority of contemporary scholars would agree with Harnack's judgment and tend to treat the verse as excluding certain (Jewish) calendrical observance rather than excluding judgment against such practices. When examined carefully, however, both Pfaff's “Irenaean” interpretation of Col 2:16 and the modern consensus—that is to say, both “inclusive” and “exclusive” interpretations—are legible in the Pauline passage. Following a discussion of Pfaff's forgery and Harnack's criticism, this is demonstrated with reference to the early reception of Col 2:16 in Tertullian and Origen and by examining the verse in its broader literary context.
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