Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Australia's First Female Prime Minister

Yep, no election - just some internal party conflict. Now we have a new PM - Australia's first female PM.

Through 2006-08 Kevin Rudd was the golden child of the Australian Labour Party and it was him as a person opposed to ALP policies that really won the last election. In fact, I was beginning to like him! And last night out of nowhere in typical unstable ALP fashion the fraction leaders ousted him in favour of someone I have never liked.

See more.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What's up with Dearborn?

I was sufficiently confused last year when the guys and girls with Acts 17 Apologetics were harassed at the Arab Festival. What about this year? They were arrested. I am even more confused. In Australia we don't have a formal Bill of Rights (yes, we're practically Communists!) so it is just embarrassing for the US.

Forthcoming Library of NT Studies books

I was originally going to share the news of a forthcoming book on the Son of Man question, Who is This Son of Man? (Continuum, 2011) ed. Larry Hurtado and Paul Owen when I noticed  a number of other interesting forthcoming books in the Library of New Testament Studies series. These include:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Events Downunder (or just in Sydney)

Just some upcoming events this year related to early Christian and Jewish studies. If anything else comes up I'll update this page.

27 July: Ben Witherington: Dining with Demons: Food Offered to Idols and the Controversy that Rocked Early Christianity. with the Society for the Study of Early Christianity [More Information]

28 JulyBen Witherington: Preaching with power: Harnessing the persuasive power of the New Testament in preaching @ Morling College, 120 Herring Rd, Macquarie Park. [Facebook event page]

24 August: Professor Hannah Cotton, Hebrew University of Jerusalem: The Bar Kochba Revolt & the Documents from the Judean Desert with the Society for the Study of Early Christianity and the Sir Asher Joel Foundation  [More Information]

St Andrew's Patristic Symposium 2010: St Gregory the Theologian or the Poetry of Theology:
Every Wedensday of September this year St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College, Sydney, will be hosting its second annual Patristic Symposium showcasing the life and works of St Gregory the Theologian, a fourth century Cappadocean bishop, poet, and father of the Church. The presentations, ranging from aspects of his worldview, approach to history, and Trinitarian and biblical theology, are by various scholars of distinction and not to be missed!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

James McGrath Reviews "Did The First Christians Worship Jesus?"

James has "reviewed" James D.G. Dunn's Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? And it comes with its very own disclaimer:

I probably should preface this post with a disclaimer that this should not be thought of as your typical review. I studied for my PhD under Jimmy Dunn. He is my Doktorvater, mentor and friend.... I also had a chance to read an earlier draft of Did The First Christians Worship Jesus? a couple of years ago and to discuss it with Jimmy and another of his former students. And when my copy of the published book arrived, I found that my own recent book on monotheism and Christology (The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context) was cited in the notes on numerous occasions. And so I make no claim to being an "impartial observer" but am rather an engaged participant in the ongoing conversation about monotheism, Christology, and worship that encompasses Jimmy, many of his former students, and a wider community of scholars as well as many others interested in the subject.
Diglot earlier reviewed the book here. As I have said earlier, I am intentionally avoiding this book until I have the time so second hand reviews will have to do me. That said, at this stage I do remain to be convinced by Dunn's earlier work (I believe I'm more of a Bauckham man).

On a final note, the book isn't overpriced!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

KJV Onlyist Rabidly Attacks the IBR Jesus Group

I was looking for the videos on the IBR Jesus Group that I came across a year or two ago but instead came across this article on the IBR Jesus Group. It is...insane.

It makes some nasty pronouncements towards the IBR Jesus Group:

Regardless of their silence, every pastor, every preacher, every teacher, every scholar, every Christian who in any way accommodates these scholars, is equally guilty of the same sins and blasphemies, and while a man may scoff at that today, Jesus Christ will verily condemn that man for it on the day of judgment, and without respect of persons.
They go on

And yet, as surely as day follows night, there are those who don't believe this; there are those who will still in any way traffic with these men, not knowing that their trafficking will lead them into a fire that they cannot escape, all their skills notwithstanding, and thus they don't really believe this is true, they don't really believe that the above Scripture...

So, apparently, the IBR Jesus Group and their "defenders" are vipers, heading straight to an unescapable fire and are "enemies of the cross of Christ." Ridiculous! When you get to the final pages they show that the whole attack was simply because the NET Bible is not the King James Version.

And for those interested in the IBR Jesus Group videos, they may be found here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Confused about Orthodoxy and Heresy? A short interview with Darrell Bock

Confused about orthoodxy, heresy and all these strange diagrams? Interested in the topic but don't know where to start? Or just curious about what it all means? When I was first interested in this topic a number of years ago, one of the first books I came across was Darrell Bock's The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities.It has a name to match Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew but doesn't leave you hanging about the important questions and implications.

Darrell Bock is Research Professor of New Testament Studies and Professor for Spiritual Development and Culture  at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is an author of a number of books many of which I own on the historical Jesus and Luke-Acts. I asked Bock some questions related to recent discussions as related to his book and he gladly replied.

Was there such a thing as early orthodoxy in the NT period, and if so what were the defining features? (Or what was their essential unity?)

Yes. I think you can see it in the doctrinal summaries in our earliest texts. 1 Cor 8:4-6, 1 Cor 11:23-26; Rom 1:2-4, 1 Cor 15:3-5. plus baptism and the Lord' table show the core theology of Jesus'  person and his death, as well as salvation. These show how Jesus' death for sin brings blessing in new life. For example, baptism is death to sin then alive to God (Rom 6). These texts are important because they come from the first century making them our earliest witnesses to what was believed.

Does a broadly defined early orthodoxy in the NT period have any theological implications for Christian's today?

Yes, it let's us know what early Christianity believed. It tells us what the hub of faith is in terms of content. Jesus' person and work stand at the core of this teaching.

How do we know the orthodoxy that "won out" was the legitimate heir of early Christianity? Or, why shouldn't we be Gnostics?

Orthodoxy has apostolic roots Gnosticism does not have. The teaching on creation is also different. Gnostics believed God did not create and the creation was bad. In contrast Christianity inherited it's view of creation from Judaism-- God created and it was good.  

 Do you think Walter Bauer's thesis is a valid model? That is, of heresy preceding orthodoxy and orthodoxy dominating through Roman control?

No, His theory has major problems. I wrote a chapter on this in my book, The Missing Gospels. His theory has problems in terms of overestimating the presence of heresy in several of the regions he mentions. Bauer did not argue that heresy preceded orthodoxy, but that it existed alongside of it and was more predominant in several regions of the early church. Only in the region of Edessa might the claim he makes be true 

I will be exploring New Testament period diversity in a number of posts comparing an early Aramaic Christian preaching with that of the early Pauline preaching.  

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An early Aramaic Christian Kerygma? Part 1

It has been suggested that the speeches attributed to Peter in Acts of the Apostles provide us with access to a summary of Petrine preaching, or at least an example of the early Christian preaching of the Jerusalem Church. C.H. Dodd wrote that, "In short, there is good reason to suppose that the speeches attributed to Peter in the Acts are based upon material which proceeded from the Aramaic-speaking Church at Jerusalem, and was substantially earlier than the period at which the book was written." (p.25)

The Case for a Pre-Lucan Source

Within the tradition of history, Luke would have had ample allowance to have been relatively creative in his speeches. However, to appeal to this in order to dismiss the speeches in Acts does not take  note of Luke's own tendencies where he can be checked. For example, his use of Mark (and comparative use of Q) demonstrates considerable care in use of his sources when attributing sayings to Jesus. Similarly, we are able to compare the speeches attributed to Paul with his own epistles. Dodd writes that Paul's speech to the Ephesian church in Acts 20:18-35 "contains so many echoes of the language of Pauline epistles that we must suppose, either that the writer had access to these epistles (which is on other grounds improbable), or that he worked upon actual reminiscence of Paul’s speech upon this or some similar occasion." Dodd goes on to suggest that (in light of the "we" passages) that although we are not receiving a verbatim report, they may be  "based upon a reminiscence of what the apostle actually said."

Regarding the Petrine speeches, Dodd points towards the existence of Semitisms, more specifically Aramaisms that are reminiscent of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel tradition. Evidently, he concludes that somewhere along the chain - whether written, oral or received in translation - the ultimate source was Aramaic. While the presence of these Semitisms has found support, others have disagreed seeing them as resulting from Semitisms within the Septuagint. Of course, this isn't to deny the presence of Lucan stylistic and theological imprint, however, there is insufficient reason to see this necessitate that Luke was merely presenting his own Gospel. Furthermore, Stanton has convincingly argued that Luke was redacting a source in studying the use of Old Testament allusions and citations and presence of primitive Christian exegetical traditions.(p.71ff.) Noting the manner in which these were redacted, Stanton concludes that it "discounts the possibility that Luke is merely summarising his own Gospel or freely composing these verses." (77)

Part 2: This will present the common themes in the speeches of Peter as representative of some sort of Kerygma. Peter's? Jerusalem Church? Some Aramaic Christians?

Part 3: What's missing? How does it compare to a Pauline Kerygma? Something along those lines.

 C.H. Dodd,  Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments: Three Lectures With an Appendix on Eschatology and History.
James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity 
 E.E. Lemcio, “The Unifying Kerygma of the New Testament”,  Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1988, pp. 3-19, and 1990, pp. 3-11
Graham N. Stanton, Jesus of Nazareth in New Testament Preaching (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series) 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Diversity in the NT Era in Picture form! (And the TRUE trajectory!)

Darrell Pursiful over at his blog has produced a diagram on diversity in the NT era. Although I don't have any major disagreement with the group of trajectories, I do have issues with their placement across the Hebraic/Hellenist spectrum. For example, I see John as very Hebraic, especially in light of Second Temple sectarian literature.

That said, no one has homed in on the true trajectory that has only recently been (re)discovered:
James McGrath has also attempted to find the right diagrammatic expression but is in need of a hand labelling it. Personally, I think diversity in the NT period is a straw man regarding Bauer's hypothesis as proto-orthodoxy was something broadly defined.

Anyway, here are some possible interpretations:

(HT: Michael Bird and James McGrath)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dunn on Early Christian Unity (Quote of the Day)

I really like this quote by Dunn:

What united the first Christians more than anything else was their belief in Jesus - in Jesus as the climax of God's ongoing purpose for man's redemption, the one whom God had raised from the dead and exalted as Lord, the man who demonstrated most clearly what God is like. Clustered round this central distinguishing belief of the first Christians were a number of others on which they would all have agreed in essence, even if their outworking in fuller formulation and practical application diverged in differing degrees: God, the Creator and the Father of Jesus Christ, as one; salvation through faith in Christ; the experience of the Spirit; the Old Testament as scripture and the traditions of Jesus, both to be treasured as authoritative for faith and life; Christianity's continuity with Israel, the people of God; practice of baptism in the name of Jesus and of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of him; and the need for an ethical outworking of faith through love. Such is the heartland of Christianity still. (James D.G. Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus p.99)

Bibliography: Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christianity

In light of recent discussions around the blogosphere I have attached a selected bibliography  for Walter Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity:

Bauer, Walter, Robert A. Kraft, and Gerhard Krodel. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Mifflintown, PA: Sigler Press, 1996. [ET]

Bock, Darrell L. The Missing Gospels : Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2006. [This book is quasi-apologetics and doesn't explore Bauer's thesis in too much detail, but it is quite a useful summary and refutation for those wanting a layman specific critique. Bock goes into more advanced territory dealing with the features of commonality between orthodoxy and disunity with later groups.]

Choat, Malcolm. (2006). Belief and cult in fourth-century papyri. Turnhout, Belgium,Brepols. [Although not on Bauer specifically, the book contains a great deal of information on the use of manuscripts. Choat has personally been responsible for developing my understanding of the use of papyri and the question of Egypt through lectures and in supervising my investigation.]

Desjardin, Michael. 'Bauer and beyond: On Recent Scholarly Discussion of hairesis in the Early Christian Era', The Second Century, 8 (1991), 65-82.

Dunn, James D. G. Unity and Diversity in the New Testament : An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity. 2nd ed. London Philadelphia: SCM Press ;
1990. [This book deals with diversity within the NT period so although it is directly relevant to Bauer's claim of "earliest Christianity" they are generally in two different periods. Dunn's ultimate conclusion is that the unity is generally focussed on the resurrection kerygma.]

Ehrman, Bart D. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture : The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

_______. Lost Christianities : the battle for Scripture and the faiths we never knew. New York, Oxford University Press. 2003. [Discusses the diversity in the second century, but I find it quite bad at explaining where Bauer failed and the implications of it.]

Harrington, Daniel J. "The Reception of Walter Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity During the Last Decade," in Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980): 289-98.

Hultgren, A. J.. The rise of normative Christianity. Minneapolis, Fortress Press. 1994. [This book was particularly difficult for me to get my hands on.]

Hurtado, Larry W. Lord Jesus Christ : Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2003. [Hurtado deals with the Christologies across the board of Christian diversity. The exalted Christology of the early Kerygma and its reception in the second century is a great indicator of orthodoxy and heresy which is greatly ignored.]

________. The earliest Christian Artifacts : manuscripts and Christian Origins. Grand Rapids, Mich., William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 2006. [The KEY to understanding diversity, well at least in Egypt, is found in the manuscript record. WHY DO PEOPLE IGNORE THIS? WHY? This book is a great introduction to manuscripts and he gives some details of what scribal habits can tell us.]

Koester, H. “Gnomai Diaphoi: The Origin and Nature of Diversification in the History of
Early Christianity,” in Trajectories Through Early Christianity. Philadelphia, Fortress Press.1971.

________. Introduction to the New Testament. Vol. 2. History and Literature of Early
Christianity.Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1982.

Kraft, Robert. Files and Information on Early Jewish and Early Christian Copies of Greek Jewish Scriptures. 2004. < >

Llewelyn, S.R. and Kearsley, R.A.(1994). New documents illustrating early Christianity :
a review of Greek inscriptions and papyri published in 1982-83. North Ryde, N.S.W., The Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University: v. [Llewelyn has a great discussion on the frequency of gospel manuscripts and patristic citations. This is very useful in my own thesis and approach]

Luijendijk, AnneMarie. (2008). Greetings in the Lord : early Christians and the
Oxyrhynchus papyri. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Theological Studies Distributed by Harvard University Press. [Someone not at Macquarie University who believes that early Christian Oxyrnchus paypri have the answer.]

Macquarie University, Papyri from the Rise of Christianity in Egypt, Conspectus
of Texts. < >

Neill, S. Jesus through many eyes : introduction to the theology of the New Testament. Guildford, Lutterworth Press. 1976.

Norris, Frederick W. "Ignatius, Polycarp, and 1 Clement: Walter Bauer Reconsidered," Vigiliae Christianae 30 (1976), 23-44

Pagels, Elaine H. The Gnostic Gospels. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1979.

________. Beyond Belief : The Secret Gospel of Thomas. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 2003.

Roberts, Alexander ; Donaldson, James ; Coxe, A. Cleveland: The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. Oak Harbor : Logos Research Systems, 1997.

Roberts, Colin H. Manuscript, Society, and Belief in Early Christian Egypt, The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1977. London ; New York: published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 1979. [Deals with diversity in Egypt; an excellent book, however, it is in need of an update. Much of my own approach has been updating and supplementing Roberts' discussion]

Robinson, Thomas A. The Bauer Thesis Examined : The Geography of Heresy in the Early Christian Church, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity V. 11. Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 1988. [This was originally a PhD Thesis. It is quite well done and covers the greater geographical range that I tend to ignore in my focus on Egypt.]

Stark, Rodney. Cities of God : Christianizing the urban empire. San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco. 2006.

Turner, H. E. W. The Pattern of Christian Truth : A Study in the Relations between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church. New York: AMS Press, 1978.

Witherington, Ben. 'The Anti-Feminist Tendencies of the 'Western' Text in Acts', Journal of Biblical Literature (103.1.82), (March 1984)

Learn Modern Greek Online?

Filoglossia is an amazing site for learning Modern Greek and for some reason or another it seems to be free. It covers everything - especially relevant vocabulary and the grammar. Of course, if you read Greek with the same pronunciation you do Koine or Ancient a modern speaker will most likely not understand you.

I am still unable to roll my γ so I shouldn't be a critic of other people's pronunciation.

Was Rome in Control? Walter Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.

This is an exert from an early draft version of an article I was working on last year on Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. As it wasn't the core of my argument it isn't as thorough as the rest (i.e. the Eyptian case study so be warned of the dubious nature of my Pastoral epistles):

In order to justify the argument from silence, Bauer has to explain the reason behind the decline of heresy and the rapid rise of orthodoxy in the geographical regions allegedly dominated by the former. To account for this phenomenon, Bauer postulates that orthodoxy came to dominate through the influence of the church in Rome.[1] Therefore, it must be asked as to whether we have evidence of Rome as an ecclesiastical powerbase which could eventually manufacture orthodoxy in regions dominated by heresy. In must be said that, although this may well be argued in the post-Constantinian period, it is problematic to assign Roman control in this earlier period.

In favour of Bauer, a number of new arguments may be provided. From the various papyri, it appears that the Christians of Eygpt, or at least at Oxyrynchus, had a close relationship with the Western church. Such is evidenced within the II/III period through a number of papyrological remains. An important example is the fragment of P.Oxy 3.406 (II/III) which contains Irenaeus’ Adversus Haereses 3.9, 2-3.[2] As Irenaeus was writing around the last quarter of the second century, the speed by which the text reached Egypt should be taken note of. Similarly, the popularity of the Shepherd of Hermas with around 10 manuscripts as well as citations from II-III/IV[3] also suggest that the Christian communities of Egypt were not isolated from ‘global-Christianity’ and, in fact, had early contact with Rome.[4]

However, much of Bauer’s assumptions in order to substantiate early Roman dominance are dubious. For example, the thesis argues that the Pastoral Epistles were a middle second century composition as a Roman response to Marcion (ca. 86-160) whose teachings peaked in the 140s[5] in order to restore proto-orthodox trust in the Pauline corpus.[6] The issue with this approach is that the reading is purely conjectural in order to support the hypothesis - it is substantially against contemporary scholarship and such a late date is difficult to view in light of patristic acceptance.[7] An example establishing a possibly earlier date of the pastorals would be the Muratorian Fragment[8] makes reference to the pastoral epistles. An early date for the pastoral epistles is clear as the author refers to the Shepherd of Hermas being composed “very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair of the church of the city of Rome.”[9] Evidently, the late date of the Pastorals which is essential to Bauer’s Roman-Control thesis is highly unlikely.

Such a questionable case is apparent in examining Bauer’s argument for ecclesiastical control by Rome. One of the chief mechanisms by which the Roman church exerted its power was through the geographical appointment of a single city bishop. However, as Norris has argued, the evidence points to this practice emerging from Jerusalem, such as James over the Jerusalem community and Ignatius and Polcyarp in Syria.[10] Similarly, a note should be made about the later control of proto-orthodoxy bishops. Within the proto-orthodox communities, the existence of the four-fold gospel tradition was an early development.[11] However, outside of accepted authoritative traditions, other texts were read in both proto-orthodox and other Christian communities as is recorded within Eusebius regarding Bishop Serapion and the Gospel of Peter. [12] Such a narrative demonstrates that there were implied checks on the people generally without any ecclesiastical intervention.

[1] Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. 111.

[2] Papyri from the Rise of Christianity in Egypt, Conspectus of Texts. Texts 183.

[3] Hurtado (2006). The Earliest Christian Artifacts. 23.

[4] However, it should be noted that despite the possibility of close affiliation of Western Christian documents coming to Egypt, the Alexandrian New Testament text type remains independent Western text-type. This suggests a limit to the literary dependence of the Egyptian communities to Rome

[5] Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, xix

[6] Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. 228

[7] Ehrman, Bart D. After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity p.318; furthermore, Irenaeus makes clear reference to 1 Timothy 1:4 in his opening of Against Heresies (c. 180) which, in my opinion, providing a very short (if any at all) window for the text to have gained extensive authoritative status.

[8] Although a later Latin document, the ‘Muratorian Canon’ it contains may be dated to the 150s-160s. Although such a date appears to be acceptable (e.g. Metzger and Ehrman), it is not universally accepted. A growing position involves dating the text to the fourth century; however, such a late date cannot legitimately account for the reference to Hermas being composed around the time of the fragment! For a further discussion, see “Muratorian Canon” in Anchor Bible Dictionary.

[9] Translation by Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development,

and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987) 305–7;

[10] "Ignatius, Polycarp, and 1 Clement: Walter Bauer Reconsidered," Vigiliae Christianae 30 (1976), 23-44.

[11] M. Hengel. (2000). The four Gospels and the one Gospel of Jesus Christ : an investigation of the collection and origin of the Canonical Gospels. Harrisburg, Pa., Trinity Press International.; Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 3.11.7

[12] Eusebius, Church History 6.12; Eusebius in his Church History records a narrative of Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, Syria and the Gospel of Peter. The story records the acceptable use of non-canonical proto-orthodox gospels with exclusion to when they could be abused to read as a heresy. In this case, the non-orthodox belief which may be (forcefully) exegeted from the narrative is docetism.[12] A similar scenario exists in ancient codices such as Codex Sinaiticus which include highly popular extra-canonical Shepherd of Hermas and Epistle of Barnabas.

The Heresy of Orthodoxy

Michael Bird has called attention to a new book: The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped our Understanding of Early Christianity by
Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger. On the part that seems like it would interest me most is the response to Walter Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Chirstianity:

Part one examines "The Heresy of Orthodoxy: Pluralism and the Christian Origins of the New Testament". This is by far the best section of the book as the Bauer thesis is taken apart brick by brick. Bauer over-estimated the influence of the Roman church, certain groups like the Valentians were parasitic on the proto-orthodoxy rather than prior to and independent of them, and Bauer claimed to know too much based on far too little. There is no denial that Christianity was diverse, but there are good arguments provided to support the notion that the groups that were later judged as "heretical" deviated from a common core of widely accepted beliefs and traditions.
 I think I will post something on the issue very shortly.