Parallelomania and parallelophobia
In historical analysis, biblical criticism and comparative mythology/religion, parallelomania has been used to refer to a phenomenon (mania) where authors perceive apparent similarities and construct parallels and analogies without historical basis. The inverse phenomenon, which occurs when suggested similarities, for example between the Bible and Ancient Near East cultures, are dismissed out of hand, is called parallelophobia.
The concept was introduced to scholarly circles in 1961 by Rabbi Samuel Sandmel (1911–1979) of the Hebrew Union College in a paper of the same title, where he stated that he had first encountered the term in a French book of 1830, but did not recall the author or the title. Sandmel stated that the simple observations of similarity between historical events are often less than valid, but at times lead to a phenomenon where an author first notices a supposed similarity, overdoses on analogy, and then "proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying a literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction". Martin McNamara, MSC (Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy) stated that Sandmel's initial paper has proven to be "highly influential".
Christian and Jewish scholars have used the concept in a number of cases and areas. Thomas Schreiner (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) applies it to over-generalization of the simple use of the verb "see" used as a participle to refer to a casual act of observation, to extending its meaning to have deeper spiritual contexts in order to construct parallels. Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner has stated that some portrayals of Aphrahat as someone who cherry picked from Rabbinical literature are based on weak parallels which fall within Sandmel's characterization of parallelomania. Joseph Fitzmyer, a priest of the Society of Jesus (SJ), states the analyses of the Pauline epistles have at times suffered from parallelomania through the construction of unwarranted analogies with prior traditions. Gerald O'Collins, SJ states that most scholars are now aware of the pitfalls of parallelomania which exaggerate the importance of trifling resemblances.
The inverse phenomenon that at the slightest suggestion of similarity between the Bible and extra-biblical texts, one uncritically proclaims the uniqueness and independence of the Bible, is called 'parallelophobia'. In their 1986 comparison of KTU 1.23, line 14 with Exodus 23:19b, Exodus 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21, Robert Ratner and Bruce Zuckerman warned against both parallelomania and parallelophobia: 'Those who have made this connection without hesitation have indulged in the sort of "parallelomania" that can only distort the picture of Ugaritic religion and culture and its relevance to biblical studies. On the other hand, we should have a care not to overreact in the other direction. (...) Just as we should resist the temptations of "parallelomania," we should also not succumb to "parallelophobia" and thereby close ourselves off from a potential insight that the Bible (just conceivably) might throw upon this difficult Ugaritic text.'
Other scholars have also warned against both, such as Mark W. Chavalas (2003), who encouraged his colleagues to follow the example of William W. Hallo, who always noted both the differences and similarities between the Bible and other texts from the ancient Near East.
- Correspondence (theology)
- Hyperdiffusionism in archaeology
- Typology (theology)
- Sandmel, S (1962). "Parallelomania". Journal of Biblical Literature. 81 (1): 1–13. doi:10.2307/3264821. JSTOR 3264821.
- Chavalas, Mark W. (2003). Mesopotamia and the Bible. London: Sheffield Academic Press. p. 43. ISBN 9780567082312. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
Hallo's goal, 'is not to find the key to every biblical phenomenon in some ancient Near Eastern precedent, but rather to silhouette the biblical text against its wider literary and cultural environment (Hallo 1991: 24). Thus, we must not succumb either to 'parallelomania'99 or to 'parallellophobia'.100
- Ratner, Robert; Zuckerman, Bruce (1986). ""A Kid in Milk"?: New Photographs of "KTU" 1.23, Line 14*". Hebrew Union College Annual. Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. 57: 51–52. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
- in French: "parallélomanie"
- Samuel Sandmel, 1961 "Parallelomania", The Presidential Address Given Before the Society of Biblical Literature, 27 December 1961, reprinted in Presidential Voices: The Society of Biblical Literature in the Twentieth Century (Biblical Scholarship in North America) edited by Harold W. Attridge, Harold, W. Attridge and James (15 November 2006) ISBN 1589832590 pages 107-118
- A Continuum: Targums and Formation of Late Second Temple Judaism by Martin McNamara in Studies on the Text and Versions of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of Robert Gordon by Geoffrey Khan and Diana Lipton (Oct 2011) ISBN 9004217304 page 279
- The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (New American Commentary, 37) by Thomas R. Schreiner (1 September 2003) ISBN 0805401377 page 122
- Aphrahat and Judaism by Jacob Neusner 1971 ISBN 9780788505775 E.J. Brill pages 188-189
- According to Paul: Studies in the Theology of the Apostle by Joseph Fitzmyer (1 January 2003) ISBN 0809133903 page 32
- Gerald O'Collins, "The Hidden Story of Jesus" New Blackfriars Volume 89, Issue 1024, pages 710–714, November 2008