Open Thread: What Is Legitimate Intertextuality?

Intertextuality is a literary phenomenon important to the study of the Bible. In his Philippians commentary, Gordon Fee describes intertextuality as “the conscious embedding of fragments of an earlier text into a later one.”[1] The author may quote or otherwise borrow elements of an earlier text in service of his present work. Note the emphasis on a conscious activity or intentionality and purpose in this definition. That being the case, Fee prompts several interesting questions:

  • Can something be a legitimate intertextual link if the author is unaware of that he has embedded an earlier text?
  • What is the role of the primary author of Scripture with regard to intertextuality?
  • How ought we to understand intertextuality in divinely-inspired Scripture?
  • How does intertextuality relate to allusions and literary parallels?
  • And more basically, where does textual meaning reside?

If you have any thoughts or questions of your own, please comment below. If there is significant interest, this subject may make for an interesting episode of Christ the Center.


  1. Gordon D. Fee. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995), 130 (emphasis original).


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