Topic for the Year 2006–2007:
“Re-thinking History, Theory, and Texts:
New Theoretical and Methodological Endeavors”

Chaired by Debra Bucher (University of Pennsylvania)
and Sarah Schwarz (Haverford College)

Douglas Finkbeiner (University of Pennsylvania), Secretary

The topic of the 44th year of the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins is "Re-thinking History, Theory, and Texts: New Theoretical and Methodological Endeavors." We take our theme from Elizabeth Clark's recent book, History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn, in which she attempts to persuade historians of ancient texts, especially those of early Christianity, "that the texts they study are highly amenable to the types of literary/philosophical/theoretical critique that have excited ... other humanities disciplines under the rubric of post-structuralism" (p.ix). This year, we plan to invite scholars to share current work that utilizes new theoretical approaches in interpreting ancient Jewish and Christian texts. We will first begin with Elizabeth Clark herself, who will present her new project of examining the establishment of the study of patristics in nineteenth-century America, showing how the roots of the modern discipline itself should inform our own study of Christianity and Judaism in antiquity. Later in the year, we hope to explore methodological issues involved in determining whether an ancient text was composed by Jews or Christians, new theories for approaching the "parting of the ways" between Christianity and Judaism, and new approaches to the study of the transmission of texts. We envision lively discussion as we think about the texts we work with and the methods and theories we employ to describe and create history from them.