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The Origins of Early Christian Literature
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Book description

Conventional approaches to the Synoptic gospels argue that the gospel authors acted as literate spokespersons for their religious communities. Whether described as documenting intra-group 'oral traditions' or preserving the collective perspectives of their fellow Christ-followers, these writers are treated as something akin to the Romantic poet speaking for their Volk - a questionable framework inherited from nineteenth-century German Romanticism. In this book, Robyn Faith Walsh argues that the Synoptic gospels were written by elite cultural producers working within a dynamic cadre of literate specialists, including persons who may or may not have been professed Christians. Comparing a range of ancient literature, her ground-breaking study demonstrates that the gospels are creative works produced by educated elites interested in Judean teachings, practices, and paradoxographical subjects in the aftermath of the Jewish War and in dialogue with the literature of their age. Walsh's study thus bridges the artificial divide between research on the Synoptic gospels and Classics.


'This breathtakingly original excavation of the hidden ideological commitments of New Testament scholarship challenges many of the dominant assumptions about how and for whom early Christian texts were written. Walsh's lucid prose and polymathic command of classics, literary theory, and modern history is not only essential reading for students of the Gospels, but a field-shaking intervention in how we think about the production of early Christian literature in general.'

Candida Moss - Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham

‘The Origins of Early Christian Literature turns a century of New Testament scholarship on its head. Setting the gospels in their proper literary context, Robyn Walsh calmly dismantles naive, romantic notions that are immersed in an anachronistic ‘oral tradition’ paradigm. Lucid, provocative, and compelling, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in Christian origins.’

Marc Goodacre - Frances Hill Fox Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University

'Scholars of New Testament and early Christianity usually assume unidirectional influence: the writers of the New Testament borrow from their cultural context, but do not really impact it. Walsh's analysis instead opens up the question of whether stories about Jesus were productive in a competitive market of story-telling, inspiring others to interlard resurrections and miracles into their own writing. She brings an impressively broad bibliography of ancient materials and contemporary conversations to her project. The book is interesting, rich with details from the texts of antiquity, and rich with knowledge of scholarship on them.'

Laura Nasrallah - Yale University

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