E-Mail Questions and Comments, RelSt
535 (Apocalyptic), Fall 2005
[added to the file in reverse order, most recent first; simple notices
of minutes posted are not included]
Date: Tue, 4 Oct
2005 14:29:27 -0400
> Date: Tue, 04 Oct 2005
> From: Christine Myers
> Subject: Questions
> I did not get a chance to
ask these questions in class last week, so here they are now:
> As far as you know, was
there any dialogue between Philo and the early Christians?
No. Eusebius knows of a tradition that Philo and Peter met in Rome --
here is the main passage (from Eusebius, Church History 2.16-17):
16.2. And the multitude of believers,
both men and women, that were collected there [Alexandria] at the very
outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive
asceticism, was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe
their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole
manner of life.
17.1. It is also said that Philo in the reign of Claudius became
acquainted at Rome with Peter, who was then preaching there.396 Nor is
this indeed improbable, for the work of which we have spoken, and which
was composed by him some years later, clearly contains those rules of
the Church which are even to this day observed among us.
2. And since he describes as accurately as possible the life of our
ascetics, it is clear that he not only knew, but that he also approved,
while he venerated and extolled, the apostolic men of his time, who
were as it seems of the Hebrew race, and hence observed, after the
manner of the Jews, the most of the customs of the ancients.
. . .
22. These things the above-mentioned author has related in his own
work, indicating a mode of life which has been preserved to the present
time by us alone, recording especially the vigils kept in connection
with the great festival, and the exercises performed during those
vigils, and the hymns customarily recited by us, and describing how,
while one sings regularly in time, the others listen in silence, and
join in chanting only the close of the hymns; and how, on the days
referred to they sleep on the ground on beds of straw, and to use his
own words,\418/ "taste no wine at all, nor any flesh, but water is
their only drink, and the relish with their bread is salt and hyssop."
23. In addition to this Philo describes the order of dignities which
exists among those who carry on the services of the church, mentioning
the diaconate, and the office of bishop, which takes the precedence
over all the others.\419/ But whosoever desires a more accurate
knowledge of these matters may get it from the history already cited.
24. But that Philo, when he wrote these things, had in view the first
heralds of the Gospel and the customs handed down from the beginning by
the apostles, is clear to every one.
But the Philonic description in question -- of the "Therapeutae" near
Alexandria -- almost certainly refers to a Jewish group similar to the
Essenes (whom Philo describes in similar terms). Here is what the
editor of the above translation has to say:
This tradition that Philo met
Peter in Rome and formed an acquaintance with him is repeated by Jerome
(de vir ill. 11), and by
Photius (Cod. 105), who even
goes further, and says directly that Philo became a Christian. The
tradition, however, must be regarded as quite worthless. It is
absolutely certain from Philo's own works, and from the otherwise
numerous traditions of antiquity that he never was a Christian, and
aside from the report of Eusebius (for Jerome and Photius do not
represent an independent tradition) there exists no hint of such a
meeting between Peter and Philo....
see further http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.vii.xviii.html
[see also the minutes for today's class for some
> I ask this because I have
a particular interest in the affect the
> philosophies of Plato and
the pre-socratics, and I suppose just Greek
> philosophy in general had
on the NT and early Christianity. It seems
> there is certainly some
evidence of connectedness in some parrallel
> stories (such as Epictitus
speaking of how one should take a lower seat
> at a feast and wait to be
asked to move up). Also, it seems that the
> Gnostics were very
philosophical in their Christian outlook in their
> very Plato-like
I doubt that such an obvious rule for conduct as Epictetus (himself a
former slave!) enunciates is necessarily reflecting Jesus traditions --
it sounds like the sort of tactic that would be passed along in certain
cultural circles (what my mother taught me?), and perhaps picked up
from there by both the Jesus tradition and Epictetus.
Yes, some of the "gnostics" appear to be influenced by Platonic
philosophy, and certainly authors such as Justin (the martyr), Clement
of Alexandria, and Origen were too (they even name names!). In the
earlier Christian writings, it is often supposed that the author of the
book of Hebrews operates from a Platonic perspective, and the letters
ascribed to Paul often make use of typically Stoic language. The Paul
described in the book of Acts also converses with Greek philosophers in
Athens. Probably any semi-educated Greek in that world would have some
indirect acquaintance with philosophical ideas that influenced everyday
discourse and life (such as Platonic-Stoic patterns for living). Direct
influence is more difficult to substantiate, although certainly not
Thanks for asking!
Date: Wed, 14
Sep 2005 21:10:53 -0400
Subject: Some Medieval Apocalyptic Bibliography, etc.
I've updated the links to primary sources (in translation) on the
course web page. Please let me know if you find any more that are
Meanwhile, some of you may be interested in the following information,
posted on the Medieval Religion list:
Date: Wed, 14 Sep
2005 11:27:59 -0400
> From: "Long, Thomas"
> Subject: Re: [M-R] Last
> Our correspondent who
initiated this thread had asked, if memory
serves me, for bibliographic suggestions, for which I offer the
> Backus, Irena. Reformation
Readings of the Apocalypse: Geneva,
Zurich, and Wittenberg. Oxford, 2000.
> Bevington, David, et al.
Homo, Memoto Finis: The Iconography of
Just Judgment in Medieval Art and Drama. Early Drama, Art and Music
Monograph Series, 6, Medieval Institute. Kalamazook, 1985.
> Bynum, Caroline Walker,
and Paul Freedman. Last Things: Death and
the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia, 2000.
> Carey, Frances, ed. The
Apocalypse and the Shape of Things to
Come. London, 1999.
> Emmerson, Richard, and
Ronald B. Herzman. The Apocalyptic
Imagination in Medieval Literature. Philadelphia, 1992.
> ---, and Bernard McGinn.
The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages.
Ithaca, NY, 1992.
> Van der Meer, Frits.
Apokalypse: Die visionen des Johannes in der
europaischen Kunst. Herder, 1978.
> Dr. Thomas Lawrence Long
> Professor of English and
Chancellor's Commonwealth Professor
> Thomas Nelson Community
> 99 Thomas Nelson Drive
> Hampton, VA 23666 USA
> 757.825.3663 (voice)
> 757.825.3842 (fax)
> Rescuing Reading Project
Harrington Gay Men's Fiction Quarterly
Date: Thu, 8 Sep
2005 01:26:51 -0400
From: Robert Kraft <email@example.com>
Subject: Getting Started in RelSt 535
I've made some progress constructing the web page for the
"Apocalypticism" class for which you have registered. The web page is
the glue that holds the class together and the guidelines for our work
together. Please familiarize yourself with it, especially the
assignments for the first four weeks (the rest is still pretty much
under construction!). The class page is linked from my home page, URL
For those of you who do not yet have a general background in early
Christian history and thought, you might do well to check the RelSt 135
web page and the materials (e.g. class minutes) available there. If you
traditional books to internet information, I can make recommendations
(e.g. the Ehrman textbook) or provide advice on books you may already
have in hand.
Welcome aboard. See you Tuesday.
---[Message 00, left over from the Spring Term Course]---
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005
From: Robert Kraft <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Gnosticism and Apocalyptic
After class, Virginia raised the following questions that will be of
> The question I was trying
to think of had to do with the
> between gnosticism and
apocalyptic in early Christianity.
The two seem
> to share some important
> 1. the present world
is viewed as utterly corrupt;
> 2. God is removed
from this present reality;
> 3. salvation must
come about by an act of God;
> 4. only the elect
will be saved;
> 5. there is some
kind of special revelation made to a
> concerning the salvation
of the elect.
> There also seem to be some
> 1. The present world
is corrupt in its essence/being for
> world is corrupted by
wicked men for apocalyptic.
> 2. The elect are
saved by sharing in the divine nature and
> removed from this world
for Gnostics; while the elect are saved by
> judgement of God in
> 3. Salvation is a
change in the nature of the elect (soul to
> ignorant to knowing) for
the Gnostics. That is, salvation is
Salvation involves a purification of the world in
> apocalyptic, and therefore
applies to the community of the
> 4. For Gnostics,
salvation is spatial/dimensional, they are
> from the physical world
into a spiritual one. In
> is temporal, and will
occur in some (end of historical) future.
Robert M. Grant is credited with the theory that Gnosticism is a
development from frustration with apocalyptic hopes. A quick google
search led to Michael Kaler's review of Bart Ehrman's Lost
Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
(2003), with the following comments on this subject:
Furthermore, the hypothesis that
Gnosticism arose from a failed Jewish
apocalypticism, which Ehrman presents, is by no means certain. The two
literary genres certainly have a great deal in common, and as far as we
know apocalypticism does predate Gnosticism, and gnostic works
(particularly Sethian) use a great many apocalyptic motifs. However, is
this a case of Gnosticism being created by frustrated apocalypticists
to explain why the eschaton did not come as planned or a case of
literary borrowings between two groups with similar concerns? The
latter idea is at least as possible as the former. There is at present
no convincing consensus on the origins of Gnosticism: the apocalyptic
derivation is one possibility among many and should have been signaled
[and his footnote 3: For a good summation of the similarities, and also
for a critique of the well-known theory of R. M. Grant that Gnosticism
developed out of frustrated apocalyptic hopes in the aftermath of the
first Jewish Revolt, see Keller, "Das Problem des Bo"sen in Apokalyptik
und Gnostik," in Gnosis and
Gnosticism: Papers Read at the Seventh
International Conference on Patristic Studies (Oxford, September
8thoe13th 1975) (ed. M. Krause; NHS 8;
Leiden: Brill, 1977), 70-90.]
[back to RAK] My recollection is that Grant abandoned that explanation
-- Jean Danielou is said to have agreed with "the early Grant" idea, in
a presentation at the Messina congress, I think (anecdotal evidence!).
My own take on it is that (1) it sounds like a stretch, and (2) what
sort of evidence could be offered for such a development among the
actual participants? Perhaps Mani comes close, with his interest in
apocalyptic texts and his radical dualism. And it needs to be said that
there are so many varieties of "apocalyptic" attested in the surviving
materials that it would not be an impossible development
to expect cosmic eradication to take place enroute to the reunification
of the scattered sparks of deity (and perhaps for later adherents to
drop the apocalyptic aspects?). To put it another way, certain types of
apocalypticism do not seem incompatible with certain types of
gnosticism, although actually showing historical (not just conceptual)
derivation of the latter from the former would seem difficult. Let's
look for possible evidence as we read the texts. (I suppose I'll have
to return to this in the "Early Christian
Apocalypticism" course next fall!)
My privilege. Let the floods (of email questions) begin! -- and
remember that if you hit the reply button to class messages, your reply
will go to everyone on the list, not just to me.