NOTE: The most recent postings appear first.
16. Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2004
Query on Diognetus and Jewish Sacrifice, from Virginia Wayland
> In the discussion of patterns of liturgy and cult, we briefly discussed
> the Christian view of Jewish practice as presented in The Epistle to
> Diognetus 3-4. There is a contrasting view of the sacrificial system
> and its message for Christianity in 1Clement 40-41. (1Clement seems to
> be an earlier text - ca. 75-100CE; while the apologetic character of
> Diognetus seems to belong to the 2nd century?)
Consensus dating, for whatever it's worth, places 1 Clement around the last years of the first century, and Diognetus about a century later.
The use of the Jewish Temple-sacrifice (Jerusalem only) model in 1 Clem 40-41 is indeed interesting, apparently resting on the author's understanding of Jewish scriptural tradition rather than on the actual post-70 situation. It raises two obvious problems -- where did the author get this information (presumably through transmitted reports that predate 70 and/or by simple derivation from what the author knew of Jewish practice), and can such allusions be of any use in attempting to date the final work, or its immediate sources (as you note below)?
> It is interesting that
> both texts seems to refer to the sacrificial system as a present reality
> although neither text seems to be early enough for the Temple in
> Jerusalem to be functioning. What does this imply as to the
> significance of the destruction of the Temple for the Christian
> communities of Europe and Asia Minor? for the the dating of Christian
> texts relative to the destruction of the Temple?
The usual interpretation is that this view of Jewish Temple, priesthood, and
sacrifice, became frozen in Christian images of Judaism, and especially in polemics
against Judaism (as in Diognetus, and in anti-Jewish Dialogues). There are exceptions
(of course!) -- e.g. the synoptic gospels have Jesus predict the destruction
of the Temple and city (especially Lk 19.41f, 21.20ff), the author of Barnabas
knows that the Temple has been destroyed, and has heard rumors about rebuilding
it (Barn 16), and Justin the martyr also knows the Temple has been
destroyed (Apol 32, Dial 40) -- neverthless, the criticism of Jewish sacrifice (and Temple reverence) has a firm hold and lives on despite such historical knowledge (see Justin Dial 22 ! note also the arguments in Hebrews 6-10 regarding priesthood and sacrifice). It is probably an old criticism that developed both inside and outside Judaism while there still was a Temple in Jerusalem (Strabo the first century Greco-Roman geographer cites material [possibly from Poseidonios of Apamaea in the 2nd c BCE] in which Moses is praised in contrast to
his successors who instituted circumcision, sacrifice, etc.), and was generally adopted by certain early Christian polemicists.
What this tells us about early Christian historical knowledge, or even about
how the Jesus traditions (as in the synoptic gospels) and other early Christian
writings were understood and/or used, will vary from author to author, perhaps
largely dependent on the author's immediate aims. Criticism of Judaism for some
authors took precedence (e.g. Diognetus), while "typology" from Jewish
scriptures (now appropriated by Christians) was a major factor for others (e.g.
1 Clement). Why throw away good arguments just because there have been new developments?
For some Christian critics, "the Jews" remain perpetually guilty,
whether for cultic
rituals and laws that are thought to obscure or prevent true worship, or for their role in the death of Jesus! Historical development is irrelevant.
Does Harnack deal with these issues? "Extra credit" for the first
15. Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004
Subject: Class Preparations
For the remainder of the term, in addition to your book reviews, we will try to ride three different horses -- hopefully all going more or less in the same direction:
1. The weekly focus questions, through which you are expected to get into first hand contact with the ancient source materials in translation;
2. The synthetic and challenging reconstruction of the early Christian period
by Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy -- available at
(as a shortcut to the issues, read the appendix on reception of the book, especially the last half from Turner's critique onward);
3. The old but thorough treatment by Harnack, becoming available chapter by chapter (with muddled Greek, if you care) on the site accessed from the "QuickLinks" on the class home page.
The main point is for you to become familiar with the main issues that characterize our pictures of early Christianity, and over which modern scholars continue to argue. This may be a challenge for some of you, but you should by now be in a position where much of it will make sense, and where you can ask questions about the rest.
It is not so important that everyone reads the same things in Bauer or Harnack each week, but it is important that everyone makes some effort, depending on your interests and/or perceived needs. My recommendation, in addition to the appendix on reception of Bauer, would be to study Bauer's Egypt chapter first, since much of what is preserved from the early period comes through Egypt. Harnack's section on Egypt is not yet ready, but general reading in Harnack's "book 1" would be appropriately synthetic and constructive in strengthening (or gaining) a general picture of the expansion of early Christianity.
You are still invited to do your reports on sections of Harnack, if you so desire. I can even assign you a section, if you need a push. If you prefer a book review but do not yet have one, I notice on my shelf a study by Thomas Robinson, The Bauer Thesis Examined: the Geography of Heresy in the Early Christian Church (Mellen 1988), which would fit in nicely and would doubtless advance all of our understandings along the way. First come first served.
14. Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2004
Subject: Two "Christological" Texts to Ponder
"Christology" is the traditional fancy name for what we've been doing
past few weeks -- the study of "Christos" in the abstract, and as the
title gets applied to Joshua/Jesus.
Along the way, two class members have called to my attention texts from
the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries that are pertinent to the discussion
insofar as they MAY provide new evidence about certain Jewish expectations
and/or models relating to future hopes.
The first such text is called 4Q377 (Apocryphon Pentateuch B) that
apparently refers mainly to Moses and his contemporaries. At one point
Moses is called God's "anointed one" (Hebrew, Meshiach = Messiah), and
later "man of God" (Ish HaElohim), who speaks "like an angel" -- perhaps
also a "messenger" (the text here is broken) -- and a "man of the pious
ones" (Ish Hasidim)! Here is a suggestive juxtaposition of titles and
associations for what followers of Joshua/Jesus later did with him. The
4Q377 text is usually dated to the first half of the first century bce.
The other text is somewhat longer, 4Q521 (Messianic Apocalypse). It also
refers to "his anointed one," but without any specific identification. The
text goes on to tell how "the Lord" (Adonai, not YHWH) will look favorably
on the "pious" (Hasidim) and the "righteous" (Zadikim), the "poor" and the
"faithful." "He will honor the pious (Hasidim) upon the throne of an
eternal kingdom, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, straightening out the twis[ted.] ... And the Lord (Adonai) will do marvelous deeds such as have not existed before, as he s[aid] -- he will
heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good
news to the poor ... and feed the hungry" (translations adapted from
Garcia Martinez and Tigchelaar, DSS Study Edition).
And there are other similar texts. We don't quite know what to do with
them. And it's late. See you in the afternoon. (Thanks, Virginia and
13. Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004
Subject: EpApost Queries and Comments
From: Virginia Wayland
> When I was reading this text I had questions,
> 1. In section 3 (all references are to the text in Hennecke and Schneemelcher Vol 1 pp 191-227) there are formulations concerning the
The 2nd edition of Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson (1991) has this material
on pp. 249-284, translated and annotated by "C.Detlef G. Mueller" --
supposedly a carefully revised version.
> birth of Christ, and in 9 concerning the crucifixion of Christ that were later incorporated into the Apostles Creed (ca. 180 CE in Rome + later modifications) and the Nicene Creed (Council of Nicea 325 CE)
> EpApost.: we believe that the word, which became flesh through the holy virgin Mary, was carried (conceived) in her womb by the Holy Spirit
The new edition has ... was hidden in her birthpangs [!?] by the Holy Spirit
> Apostles Creed: who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin
> Nicene Creed: was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.
> EpApost: crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate and of the prince Archelaus, who was crucified between two thieves and was taken down from the wood of the cross together with them, and was buried
New edition: [gives Ethiopic and Coptic in parallel columns] roughly the same (Coptic omits the reference to removal from the cross).
The identification with Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, who ruled in Judea from about 4 bce to 6 ce is odd; we would expect perhaps Herod Antipas, another son of Herod the Great (and blood brother to Archelaus). This is an interesting confusion; according to Josephus, Archelaus was banished to Vienna in Gaul in 6 ce, and is not mentioned subsequently. He is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, where his presence as ruler of Judea influences Jesus' parents to move to Nazareth (Matt 2.22)!
> Apostles Creed: suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and
> Nicene Creed: he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
> Both these sections are introduced with 'we know' which seems (to me) to be a variation of the credal formula 'we believe'.
It serves the same function, in these elongated credal-like rehearsals!
> Since this text seems to have been written in the first half of the second century, it would predate either creed. It seems to be an intermediate step between a summary of the gospels and the credal statements. Is there any evidence that it is a source for either or both creed(s)? It seems surprising that it would not be mentioned anywhere.
Dating of EpAps is difficult, and the hypotheses range throughout the 2nd century, at least. The new editor in Hennecke-Schneemelcher says middle of the 2nd century, perhaps.
The dating of the "Apostles' Creed" is similarly vexed. We do not
get actual copies of such creeds until much later, but the ingredients can be
seen in certain late 2nd century writings (Irenaeus, Tertullian) and in
4th-5th century claims about the early "Roman Creed." I would think that EpAps could be included in the early group. (According to my 1963 edition of Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, "the complete 'Apostles' Creed,' as we know it, is found first" in a work from the mid 8th century!)
> 2. It seems to me that the passage(s) about the archangels/angels at the altar (13,51) presuppose a something like the 'true tabernacle' of Heb 9.23-24.
I hear more echos of Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic traditions here
than of the quasi Platonic (?) tabernacle in the heavens of Hebrews; or to put
it another way, I'd say EpAps and Hebrews take the older
apocalyptic imagery in somewhat different directions. The "descent of Christ" motif in EpAps is very similar also to "Gnostic" themes (we need to look at the "Hymn of the Pearl" [aka "Hymn of the Soul"] in the Acts of Thomas for another presentation of the descent/ascent).
> 3. This question concerns the genre of Revelation Dialogues in general. When I was reading Dialogue of the Savior, it seemed to me that the whole question and answer format was similar to 4Ezra but Koester in Introduction to the New Testament Vol.2 p 159-160 seems to think that this genre is unique to the early Christian tradition? Does 4Ezra belong to early Christian tradition?
Yes, it became part of the early Christian tradition, but there is no reason
to think it originated in such circles. The pages of my edition of Koester (1987
paperback) must differ from yours, since I don't see
anything about this genre on pp.159-60 (there is a reference to turning sayings of Jesus into dialogue form by inserting questions and answers in his #10.3.a.1, but this doesn't seem to claim Christian uniqueness). I
doubt that there is anything uniquely Christian about it, and your reference to 4 Ezra is quite appropriate.
12. Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2004
Subject: Followup on John Allegro [the "crucified messiah" discussion]
To round out the picture of John Allegro's publications, here are a selection of library catalog entries. (John was my colleague at Manchester from 1961-1963; he was born in 1923, died in 1988):
He writes well! Want to review one?
11. Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004
Subject: Pliny the Younger's Latin Text
I've added a link to the Latin text of Pliny's Correspondence with Trajan, for those of you who wish to check it out for yourself -- it also includes a translation by Prof. William Harris of Middlebury College (Emeritus).
As I recall from Class questions, the following points were in need of clarification:
1. Was Pliny already executing Christians summarily?
Confitentes iterum ac tertio interrogavi supplicium minatus;
perseverantes duci iussi.
I ask a second and third time to be sure, and indicate to them the danger of
If they persist, I order them led dispatched (= executed). [so Harris!]
Comment: duci iussi is very crisp and (to me) cryptic -- "I order them to be taken away"? It sounds like a frozen legal idiom (that the Emperor and/or his advisors would understand), but I'm no expert in Roman court terminology, to determine exactly what it might mean in relationship to such possibilities as prison, scourging, or execution. From the perspective of those accused, it can't be good!
2. When did Christians gather in Pliny's Bithynia?
Affirmabant autem hanc fuisse summam vel culpae suae vel erroris,
quod essent soliti stato die ante lucem convenire,
carmenque Christo quasi deo dicere secum invicem
seque sacramento non in scelus aliquod obstringere, . . . .
They stated that the sum total of their error or misjudgment,
had been coming to a meeting on a given day before dawn,
and singing responsively a hymn to Christ as to God,
swearing with a holy oath not to commit any crime . . . .
Comment: stato die would mean on a "predetermined (fixed) day" -- certainly not explicitly the "first day" of anything.
3. The use of "superstition" terminology by Pliny:
Nihil aliud inveni quam superstitionem pravam et immodicam.
I found nothing worthy of blame other than the blind and over-wrought nature of their cult-superstition. [Harris]
Comment: not only is it superstitionem, but it is depraved and immoderate; does that mean that Pliny might call other, more neutral phenomena, "superstition" of a less objectionable sort? At least the Christian food was normal!
4. Did Trajan advocate prosecution of Christians for being Christian?
Conquirendi non sunt; si deferantur et arguantur, puniendi sunt ....
These people must not be searched out, if they are brought before your
court and the case against them is proved, they must be punished....
Comment: if they are accused/charged and convicted -- that much is clear -- but charged and convicted of what? being Christian? some associated crime? And punished how? I'm not sure Pliny got much help from this instruction/advice.
Does anyone know whether the Christian "cult of the martyrs" claimed
any "martyrs" from this time and place? The list of such heros allegedly
from the 2nd century in Asia Minor is impressive, but I don't know whether any
are linked to Pliny's policies. There is a web group (or more) that focusses
on such things.
10. Fri, 30 Jan 2004;
Short Reports & Reviews
In thinking about the relationship of the Harnack project to the "short reports and reviews" assignment, and in assessing the progress thus far on the scanning and proofreading of the Harnack volumes, I'm refining the assignment as follows:
1. You may do a review of any relevant approved book, to be delivered orally in class (to inform others about the book's relevance and evaluate its contributions), with a brief written summary handed in as well (no more than 5 pages, usually less).
2. You may choose a section of the Harnack material and report in class on
it, paying attention both to issues of proofreading (send me lists of corrections)
and more important, to the tone and content of the section(s). Even though Harnack
was knowledgeable and brilliant, he was a person trained in late 19th century
Protestant Germany, and his treatment of the development of early Christianity
will sometimes expose those
contexts (e.g. statements about Judaism, or attention to Christian doctrinal developments). Thus your reports should both summarize what he covers, and comment on the ways in which it may reflect assumptions, approaches and conclusions that may be out of step with today's scholarship (as you understand it). A brief written summary should also accompany the list of corrections, etc. (you will not be held responsible
for the garbled Greek, if you plead ignorance of that language). I can supply xeroxes of the relevant sections if needed.
3. Hopefully, some of you who feel sufficiently comfortable with German, can report on modifications that Harnack made between the 1908 English translation of the 2nd German edition, and the final 4th German edition in 1924. Thus I envision some dual reports, one student commenting on the English, and another on the 4th edition modifications of the same material.
To see what is ready for such reports, see the Table of Contents page and its links (some of it is in rougher condition than others!):
I would hope for a reporting session on each of the following:
More will be added to the list as additional portions are scanned and preliminarily proofed. Volunteers for that level of processing (in addition to the class reporting) are also welcome.
9. Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2004
Subject: Email Communications File
I've added a new link to the class home page, under "Requirements," that takes you to a file of EMail Communications to the class list during the term. This will enable you to check the past mailings (newcomers, please note!) and reduce the tendency most of us have to "lose" (or misplace) such things.
The direct address is
8. Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2004
Subject: Next Week's Assigned Question
I've updated the assigned question for next week (#4 on the syllabus) somewhat -- more links, more opportunities for additional information and insights! Please check it out.
Happy Snow Time.
7. Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004
Subject: PSCO 41.3 (22 January 2004) Seminar
It occurs to me that some of you might be interested in the following announcement and related information (go to the PSCO web page). I apologize for not thinking of you all earlier, but "better late than never"?
> Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 23:36:05 -0500
> From: Robert Kraft <email@example.com>
> Subject: PSCO 41.3 (22 January 2004) Seminar
> PHILADELPHIA SEMINAR ON CHRISTIAN ORIGINS
> in its 41st year
> an Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar
> under the auspices of the
> UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
> Department of Religious Studies
> 201 Logan Hall
> with support from
> the Penn Humanities Forum
> TOPIC FOR 2003-2004: Parabiblical Prosopography (in the footsteps of Lost Apocrypha by M. R. James,)
> Chair and Coordinator:
> Robert Kraft (University of Pennsylvania) firstname.lastname@example.org
> T.J.Wellman (University of Pennsylvania) email@example.com
> Harry Tolley (University of Pennsylvania) firstname.lastname@example.org
> THE THIRD MEETING OF THE 2003-04 YEAR will be held on Thursday, 22 January
> 2004, from 7-9 pm in the Second Floor Lounge, Logan Hall at the University
> of Pennsylvania. For some backgrounding on the topic (which is a
> continuation of the previous year's topic), see the PSCO web page (URL
> below) and especially
> (with links to electronic versions of M.R.James Lost Apocrypha and similar
> materials with early Christian focus).
[details of this meeting deleted]
> LOOKING AHEAD (tentative; details to follow in due time):
> "Parabiblical Traditions with Connections to Magic -- SOLOMON and
> PHILIP" Sarah Schwarz, University of Pennsylvania, and Debra Bucher,
> University of Pennsylvania
> "The WATCHERS and GIANTS in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Traditions"
> Annette Reed, McMaster University (Canada)
> ELIJAH Traditions: David Frankfurter, University of New Hampshire
> April/May 2004:
> On MARY (exact title forthcoming) Ann Matter, University of Pennsylvania
> and Vasiliki Limberis, Temple University
> PSCO home page (being updated) http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/psco/
6. Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004
Subject: Gnostics on Death
> From: "Virginia Wayland" <email@example.com>
> Subject: RelS535 Death
> Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 07:08:23 -0500
> Regarding the discussion of the Gnostic belief(s) about death, there is
> a (short) text in the Nag Hammadi Library called The Treatise on
> Resurrection which is worth reading. According to the introduction by
> Malcolm Peel, the text contains Valentinian symbols and imagery and
> seems to reflect the view combatted in 2 Tim 2:18 that the resurrection
> has already occurred. However, many of the views reflected in the text
> are very similar to those in Paul, and at one point the letter states
> clearly that "He (the Lord) embraced them both, possessing the humanity
> and the divinity."
> This particular text is not 'radically' gnostic and is probably not
> going to be very satisfactory for those who want to draw a clear line
> between 'orthodox' Christian thought and 'gnostic' Christian thought.
> It rather reflects that there is a range of understanding about some key
> issues in Christianity.
> Virginia Wayland
Thanks, Virginia, for calling our attention to this brief (4-5 pages!) but fascinating text in which the author responds to questions about "resurrection" and associated matters. It is also known as "Epistle to Rheginus," since although the author is not named, the recipient, Rheginos or Rheginus, is (similar to the "Epistle to Diognetus" that is sometimes grouped with the "Apostolic Fathers" but is more like the "Apologetic Writings" in content).
This writing was the subject of the Harvard dissertation by Bentley Layton (now a Professor at Yale), published in 1979, and Layton summarizes his conclusions in the introduction to his translation of the treatise in his book The Gnostic Scriptures (Doubleday 1987) 326ff. Layton sees the epistle as a calculated "come on" to someone familiar with the extant creedal formulations of Christianity in which "resurrection" is a central element, moving from the traditional language to a Valentinian understanding of pre-existence, predestination, existence in the illusory world, and the freeing of the soul/spirit (thus "resurrection" of a sort) as basic to the present process of salvation through faith -- thus rendering talk about future resurrection and physical resurrection largely irrelevant.
Layton's understanding of the text is a good example of how one's assumptions
about the situational context affects how one reads (and translates) such materials.
Layton is sure that the treatise/letter stems from a Valentinian perspective,
and that it takes a tactical approach to gently persuade the inquirer ("diatribe
style" as known from Greek literature in the hellenistic period). Layton
is also sure that the original language in which the treatise/letter was composed
was Greek, so even the normal linguistic ambiguities of such a writing are magnified
by the fact that we have it preserved only in Coptic -- that is, we see it through
the filter of the Coptic translator, who may or may not have understood correctly
what was being translated. Fortunately, Layton is expert in both Greek and Coptic,
and amply annotates his translation so that the reader can usually see the interpretational
moves he makes. But keep in mind the Italian proverbial saying, "The translator
is a traitor" (i.e. in translating, there is no such thing as exact representation
of the original) -- and here we need to keep in view both the Coptic translator,
and the one who produces an English translation for us.
So, let's all read this short text while the "gnostic" problem is fresh in our minds. I recommend Layton's treatment, since it makes excellent sense to me, but any translation is better than none at this point, and Peel's translation is conveniently available online (no excuses!) --
As background, you might also review (or read for the first time) Paul's classic
discussion of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. If you were the author of the
letter to Rheginos, would you have any problems with Paul's treatment? Does
Paul think there is a physical resurrection?
5. Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004
Subject: Harnack Table of Contents
The Table of Contents for Harnack's volumes has been added to the Harnack directory at
It will give you an idea of what is covered by those two volumes, and perhaps suggest a section that you might be interested in mastering for the electronic edition (your work will be acknowledged in the file).
As you will note, there are some very significant differences between the English
editions (1904, 1908) and with the final German 4th edition (1924). See my previous
posting on this situation.
4. Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004
Subject: The Harnack Project: First Steps & Options
I am appending a sample from the Harnack project, to illustrate what needs to be done at the various stages, ut also to provide some information (content!) for possible class discussion. So even if you are not interested in taking part in the project, please read on to see how Harnack\2 (second edition, 1906 in German) modified his approach by the time Harnack\4 (1924 final German edition) appeared.
1. The first stage is to scan in the Harnack\2 English translation (1908). Some of this has been done, but much remains. There is minimal educational value at this stage, unless you are preparing for a career in scanning.
2. The next stage is to verify the scanning and correct the many mistakes. This has some educational value in that it exposes you to the contents of the books. The point here is to make sure the English and Latin are accurate, and if you are sufficiently conversant with the Greek alphabet, to pay attention to short spurts of Greek. The longer Greek sections will probably need special treatment (cut and paste approach). I do have some scanned materials that need verification.
3. Next comes formatting of special materials (e.g. English and Greek or Latin in parallel), adding bells and whistles (how to deal with footnotes, links to other files, anchors within the file, etc.). This takes someone knowledgeable about HTML formats, etc. Similar educational value here, since you would need to read much of the text and watch for things that could usefully be updated (e.g. bibliography, more recent editions, etc.).
At this point, the original project will have been completed -- chapter by chapter, with the main focus on the 2nd printed volume, which contains some of the most technical, and most enduringly valuable material.
4. But then, wouldn't it be even better to have the electronic edition updated to the 4th German (1924) final edition? Of course! How much of a job will that be and what is the value? See below for a sample!
Exhibit #1 -- the opening paragraph of Harnack\2 book 4 chapter 1
THE SPREAD OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
GENERAL EVIDENCE FOR THE EXTENT AND INTENSITY OF THE SPREAD OF
CHRISTIANITY. THE MAIN STAGES IN THE HISTORY OF THE MISSION.
Josephus, the Jewish writer at the close of the first century CE, completely ignores the Christian movement; for his so-called testimony to Jesus [Antiquities 18.(3.3)63-64] is a Christian interpolation. He may have deliberately ignored it. Nevertheless, we may infer from his silence that Christianity was numerically insignificant among the religious movements of the age. Even at a much later period it was unnoticed by historians. Herodian, for example, who wrote (about 240 CE) a comprehensive history of the period between the death of Marcus Aurelius and the accession of Gordian 3, never mentioned it.
Exhibit #2 -- the same paragraph from Harnack\4 (my Englishing)
Josephus, the Jewish writer at the close of the first century CE, apparently completely ignores the Christian movement; for it is at least questionable whether he -- in a single passage (Antiquities 18.(3.3).63-64) on the "Christian" "tribe (fulon) named after Christ" -- claimed that they "have not yet disappeared,"\1/ and also the reference to Jacob/James "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ"\2/ is contested.\3/ Nevertheless, we may infer from the silence of Josephus, whether it is partial or complete, that no solid conclusions can be drawn concerning the reliability of the gospel story or information about the earliest spread of Christianity. Even at a much later period it was unnoticed by historians. Herodian, for example, who wrote (about 240 CE) a comprehensive history of the period between the death of Marcus Aurelius and the accession of Gordian III, never mentioned it.
\1/Josephus, Antiquities 18.(3.3).63-64 (Whiston): "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
\2/Josephus, Antiquities 20.(9.1).200: Ananus the high priest "convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James/Jacob, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others, and accusing them of being law transgressors he delivered them over for stoning."
\3/The 1908 ET is much more dogmatic here -- the so-called testimony to Jesus is a Christian interpolation. Josephus may have deliberately ignored the Christian movement. This suggests that Christianity was numerically insignificant among the religious movements of the age. (The Jacob/James passage is not mentioned.) The 1924 German 4th edition adds the following note at this point: I have defended my views on the Josephus evidence in the "Internat. Monatsschrift" of June 1913; but Norden's presentation in the "Neuen Jahrbb. f. d. Klass. Altert." 1.31 (1913) 637ff. has made a strong impression on me which prevents me from positing an unambiguous conclusion. The inauthenticity of the James/Jacob passage seems to me undemonstrable. This passage in general ignores the existence of Christian communities.
<end of exhibits>
Now then, clearly Harnack\4 is much more cautious, and provides much more information, both ancient (the Jacob/James passage) and modern (his own and Norden's articles). Assuming that such modifications continue throughout Harnack\4, the value of updating the electronic version to include them should become obvious. I've checked about a half dozen pages thus far, and there are indeed many minor and some major modifications.
Next, I'll supply a table of contents for the entire work, with indications of what is already in some sort of electronic form. If you are interested in participating, please let me know at what level(s) and we can work out various sub-projects. Whether or not you participate in the project, much of the material will be assigned reading in the course -- when it has reached "readable" form.
3. Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004
Subject: Preparing for the next (2nd) class
As you can see from the syllabus on the class page, the "warm up" question for our next class is:
2. Getting Oriented to the Participants
Identify four different sub-GROUPS within early Christianity and be able to describe in some detail at least one representative of each sub-group.
[Suggestion: work from tables of contents of Secondary Syntheses, with help
from Secondary Anthologies as necessary]
For those of you with little background, pay attention to the main characters and groups mentioned in the various helps available to you -- know how people such as Joshua/Jesus, Paul, Justin (Martyr), Irenaeus, and the like fit into the picture (chronologically, geographically, socially, conceptually, etc.). Make use of the mnemnotic (aide to memory) devices such as the 6 Ws (who, when, where, why, what, wherefore) and PERSIA (Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Intellectual, Aesthetic) to help fix things in your historical grid (which you are automatically creating at the same time!).
I mentioned some helps in the previous mailing, but let me call your attention especially to the file on "People" in the "old files" for RelSt 135 --
if you like to visualize relationships, this should help; the names are arranged both with reference to chronology, and to some extent in geographical or other rationalized clusters (e.g. Basilides, Valentinus, and Carpocrates are all classified among the "gnostics" by early Christian opponents, and are often seen as offshoots of the "arch-heretic" Simon Magus [mentioned in Acts 8; what does "magus" mean?]). Pay attention especially to the names prior to the year 200 CE (what does CE mean?), and note the non-Christian writers and political figures in the lower part of the chart. There are good Web resources for more detailed information on the chart. There are good Web resources for more detailed information on these "People" -- such as the Catholic Encyclopedia linked from the course web page.
For those with this sort of background already in hand, review what you thought you knew and propose other names and groups that may be poorly represented or omitted from the chart. Should Thekla be there? or Quintilla? (Who are they??) Should there be multiple Johns? (Why?) And why does Philo appear among the "Christians" while Josephus lingers below the line? Who are they and why should we care?!
Responses to the scattered questions above may be submitted by email. First ones in win the prizes! (I used to say "extra credit" -- and everyone understood what the quotation marks meant.)
2. Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004
Subject: Assignment Suggestions: Basic Level
For those of you with little academic background, here are some shortcuts to explore in addition to reading introductory treatments such as Ehrman or Tyson:
The list of "canonical" biblical books to which I referred in class can now be accessed from the Religious Studies 002 link on my home page. The exact file is called "Canonical Scriptures," found at
The "Jewish Literature" file on the RelSt 002 directory might also be of interest, although it is focussed mainly on Classical/Rabbinic Judaism rather than on the earlier "parabiblical" and "pseudepigraphical" Jewish materials more directly relevant for the historical and ideological settings of early Christian representatives.
There is also a "Glossary" on the RelSt 002 directory, which might be of some use, although it covers much more ground than we will in this course. A more "friendly" form of the glossary (indexed, etc.) may be found at
On the RelSt 135 "old files" directory (also linked from my home page) you will find a series of "combined class notes" for the course materials, which could provide another avenue for becoming acquainted with the basic information needed in RelSt 535. Indeed, several of the other links on that menu would be worth exploring as well. I'll try to make sure that those links are operative!
1. Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004
From: Robert Kraft <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: question about Ehrman editions
> As I was searching to buy the book "The New Testament" by Bart
> Ehrman, I found three editions: 1996, 1999, and 2003. The 1999 edition =
> is by far the cheapest one, so if there isn't much difference among the =
> editions, I would like to buy this edition. What do you suggest? I am a =
> novice in the field of early Christian history, literature, and modern =
> literature on it, so please fill me in on this. I would really =
> appreciate it.
Thank you for the question. For course purposes, it makes little difference which edition you use, since they will all have the basic materials needed. The differences in the editions will not be significant.
NOTE: I've set up the class email list. Please keep in mind that if you reply to one of the class communications, it will go to everyone, not just to me or to another sender. If you email me off list and your question or comment seems to me to be of general interest, I will normally circulate it (as I'm doing here), normally with your name removed.
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