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Provides an overview of current hypotheses about the sources used in the creation of the gospels and the implications source-critical theories have for gospels interpretation. After a discussion of the relation of the Gospel of John to the synoptics, attention is given to relations between the synoptics, and an account is given of the ongoing scholarly debate surrounding the ‘Q hypothesis’ and its rivals.
Frances Young explores the changing relationship in the history of the early church between the gospel texts and the determination of true doctrine. She shows that, even when the four gospels had been accepted as canonical, what shaped doctrine most was the overarching sense of what scripture as a whole was about, epitomized in the ’Rule of Faith’ and the creeds.
The chapter discusses a papyrus letter in the Basel papyrus collection that is our earliest autograph of a self-proclaimed Christian. The earliest evidence of Christians in the Egyptian countryside points to a well-traveled and well-read local landed elite. The Basel letter shows that Christians at that time were not hindered from taking public offices in their hometowns. In fact, they were called upon to do so, along with their pagan fellow citizens of means; their financial situation was decisive, not their faith. The Basel letter further illuminates the early spread of Christianity beyond urban centres and the strong links between urban and rural areas operating in a symbiotic relationship. It helps us elucidate the lives of early Christians in the Egyptian countryside during the first half of the third century, a period for which literary evidence is lacking.
Simon Gathercole surveys the various non-canonical gospels and their respective christologies. He first orients the reader to the field of research, noting the competitive positioning of non-canonical gospels relative to the four canonical gospels. He then shows how more recent scholarship has sought either to blur the canonical boundary or to compare and contrast the canonical gospels with their non-canonical counterparts in respect of history, theology and ethics.
This chapter reviews the networks that made possible the diffusion of the beliefs and practices associated with the figure of Christ during the first and second centuries and concludes that the missionary, the pious merchant, and the occasional Christian traveler should definitively be discarded as likely agents of religious change. Complex contagions such as the diffusion of religious beliefs and practices require as agents individuals who have strong ties, and therefore social capital, in the different networks among which they circulate. In turn, the local networks of diffusion must be both strong-tie and sufficiently open. These findings invite a reopening of the question of the role of the Jewish Diaspora in the spread of Christianity beyond the first century.
The concept of Israel is central to the development of Judaism and Christianity, but the boundaries of Israel and Israelite identity were the source of significant conflict throughout the Second Temple period. This chapter argues that mapping the concept of Israel in the Second Temple period requires a recursive process that first examines the biblical constructions of Israel and then evaluates how later participants appropriated, performed, and developed thaose traditions. This introduction then outlines how this work aims to accomplish these tasks and concludes with a discussion of the equally difficult term Ioudaios (Jew/Judaean) and its relation to the concept of Israel.
Given its eschatological orientation and its marginal position in the Roman Empire, emergent Christianity found embodiment, as an aspect of being in the world, problematic. Those identified and identifying as Christians developed two broad responses to that world as they embraced the idea of being in, yet not of it. The first response, martyrdom, was witness to the strength their faith gave to fragile bodies, particularly those of women, and the ability by suffering to overcome bodily limitation and attain the resurrection life. The second, asceticism, complemented and later continued martyrdom as a means of bodily transcendence and participation in the spiritual world.
Having demonstrated a more plausible social context for the gospel writers in the previous chapter, Chapter 4 establishes how many of the features of the gospels traditionally associated with their exceptionalism – for example, anonymity or consulting eyewitnesses – can be understood as evidence of rhetorical strategy and literary influence. By comparing the Synoptic gospels to the Satyrica, in particular, we see how these writings were in dialogue with the literary interests of the age in subjects like funerary meals, crucifixion, resurrection, and so forth.
Chapter 5 argues that the Synoptic gospels can be read as a “subversive biography” in the tradition of similar treatments of notable underdogs like Alexander the Great in the Alexander Romance or the notorious Aesop. Situating the gospels securely within a new genre classification demonstrates their engagement with the literary culture of the imperial period. Thus, specific characteristics of Jesus’ portrayal in the Synoptics need not be a function of oral tradition, but a reflection of the rational interests of elite, imperial writers.
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 chapter contrasts two parallel views of demons and their disruption of the ascetic life which coexisted in fourth-century Egypt. It rests on the hypothesis that we can read discussion of the nature, mode, and location of demons and the violence they work upon the ascetic as a medium for creating religious subjectivities in relation to a non-human adversary. Examination of each ascetic teacher’s demonology therefore reveals their vision for the ascetic life, its urgency and potentials, as well as the precarity and vulnerability an ascetic could expect to experience. The demons in the Letters of Antony manipulate the thoughts, impulses, and emotions of the individual. Their work occurs inside the person and exploits the weakness of the human mind and body. For Athanasius, in contrast, demons function primarily in an external, corporeal, and physically violent mode. Athanasius locates the ascetic life in a large-scale conflict with demons who do not merely corrupt the monk’s perceptions and emotions, as in the Letters, but also turn out in gangs and beat him senseless. This introduction of physicalised and externalised violence into the ascetic work of Antony moves the readers far away from the process of careful reflection and discernment of one’s emotions and thoughts which the Antony of the Letters had encouraged as a defence against internally located demons. This project of comparative reading shows that Antony and Athanasius have diverging and partially incompatible notions of the human predicament and therefore also of the ethical urgencies to which a human being is subject, suggesting that there is substantial diversity within early Christian ascetic thinking which goes far beyond any issue of doctrine. By focusing on each teacher’s account of demonic violence, we can see how violence interacts with the ethical imagination, bodies, and monastic pedagogy.
This monograph is the first study to assess in its entirety the fourth-century CE Latin translation of and commentary on Plato's Timaeus by the otherwise unknown Calcidius. The first part examines the authorial voice of the commentator and the overall purpose of the work; the second part provides an overview of the key themes; and the third part reassesses the commentary's relation to Stoicism, Aristotle, potential sources, and the Christian tradition.
This chapter looks at the manner in which Calcidius presents allusions to Christian views (in comparison with known Christian authors of the era), his use of the "Hebrews," and his minimal reliance on Origen.
This chapter reassesses the role of the divine and matter in Calcidius' commentary in comparison with views attested for Christian authors of this era, in order to highlight the incompatibility between the two worldviews.
St Paul was a pivotal and controversial figure in the fledgling Jesus movement of the first century. The New Cambridge Companion to St Paul provides an invaluable entryway into the study of Paul and his letters. Composed of sixteen essays by an international team of scholars, it explores some of the key issues in the current study of his dynamic and demanding theological discourse. The volume first examines Paul's life and the first-century context in which he and his communities lived. Contributors then analyze particular writings by comparing and contrasting at least two selected letters, while thematic essays examine topics of particular importance, including how Paul read scripture, his relation to Judaism and monotheism, why his message may have been attractive to first-century audiences, how his message was elaborated in various ways in the first four centuries, and how his theological discourse might relate to contemporary theological discourse and ideological analysis today.
When idols lost their sense of agency, they effectively died. While this could happen at any time, this chapter focuses on the end of idols in the late third century AD through to the early medieval period. It examines three main agents of cult image destruction: Germanic barbarians, Christian iconoclasts, and ‘rituals of closure’ conducted by pagans themselves. For the Germanic tribes who raided Roman territory for plunder starting in the third century AD, the destruction of cult images could intimidate prisoners intended to become slaves. Numerous Christian hagiographies describe the destruction of idols from the fourth to seventh centuries AD. At some sites, destructive attention was focused on specific images and parts of images, affirming a distinction between idols and other cult images. The careful burial of certain monuments, statues, and statue fragments suggest that some cult images were intentionally disposed of by those who venerated them. Similar rituals of closure in other world cultures prevent ritually charged material from being occupied by dangerous spirits, as well as being a fitting way of disposing of holy objects. In each instance, these actions only makes sense if idols are perceived of as possessing real power.
Justin Martyr’s Apologies cite an imperial letter. Scholarly debate has usually focused on whether this letter is real. This chapter argues instead that the rescript associated with Justin’s Apologies, and the Apologies themselves, evoked known cultural and adminstrative practices – practices of hanging papyrus libelli and their subscriptiones in Rome at the Temple of Apollo or the Baths of Trajan, practices also known from the ‘publication’ of rescripts epigraphically in cities far from Rome. Justin’s rescript was thus made real in part through engagement with broader practices of documents in the built environment of cities. The reference to an imperial letter shows Christian citation and/or imitation of imperial documents, a practice that fits within a larger, shared culture of composition, collation, and publication of local complaint and imperial response. An investigation of the rescript associated with Justin provides a focal point to consider larger issues: how minoritized groups in antiquity responded to Roman imperial power, how political power was experienced in urban spaces, and how legal(ish) documents, whether real or invented, could be used to assert rights and resistance.
This book explores new ways of analysing interactions between different linguistic, cultural, and religious communities across the Roman Empire from the reign of Nerva to the Severans (96–235 CE). Bringing together leading scholars in classics with experts in the history of Judaism, Christianity and the Near East, it looks beyond the Greco-Roman binary that has dominated many studies of the period, and moves beyond traditional approaches to intertextuality in its study of the circulation of knowledge across languages and cultures. Its sixteen chapters explore shared ideas about aspects of imperial experience - law, patronage, architecture, the army - as well as the movement of ideas about history, exempla, documents and marvels. As the second volume in the Literary Interactions series, it offers a new and expansive vision of cross-cultural interaction in the Roman world, shedding light on connections that have gone previously unnoticed among the subcultures of a vast and evolving Empire.
The attack of Heliodorus on the temple in 2 Macc 3 is the first of a series of events occupying the narrative core of the book. In the first act of the story, a dispute arises over the actual contents of the temple treasury, with the high priest Onias claiming that they are “deposits of widows and orphans” (3:10). This essay focuses on this detail and shows that it entails an as yet unnoticed connection with a core of biblically ingrained traditions that gain momentum in the Second Temple period and come to the fore afterwards in the works of ancient Jewish and Christian authors: traditions that equate God’s money with money intended for the poor. In order to substantiate my claim, I survey texts in Deuteronomy, Tobit, and the Epistle of Jeremiah in search of hints of this process of “pauperization” of God’s property, and proceed to investigate the history of reception of 2 Macc 3:10 in the Latin translations, among the church fathers, and in the post-Talmudic work Josippon. The aim is to demonstrate that 2 Macc 3:10 became a productive link in the rhetorical formulation of a topos which bore long-lasting literary, theological, and practical fruits.
It has traditionally been assumed that biblical writers considered Nero to be the Antichrist.. This book refutes that view. Beginning by challenging the assumption that literary representations of Nero as tyrant would have been easily recognisable to those in the eastern Roman empire, where most Christian populations were located, Shushma Malik then deconstructs the associations often identified by scholars between Nero and the Antichrist in the New Testament. Instead, she demonstrates that the Nero-Antichrist paradigm was a product of late antiquity. Using now firmly established traits and themes from classical historiography, late-antique Christians used Nero as a means with which to explore and communicate the nature of the Antichrist. This proved successful, and the paradigm was revived in the nineteenth century in the works of philosophers, theologians, and novelists to inform debates about the era's fin-de-siècle anxieties and religious controversies.