SSP: The “Third Part” of Patrick’s Bible

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.

Early Church FathersBefore turning to our examination of the form of Patrick’s Bible, a brief word must be said concerning Patrick’s relationship with the “third part” of the New Testament:[1] the writings of the Church Fathers. While Hanson argues that Patrick was literally a man of one book who was not exposed to any substantial literature apart from the Biblical text,[2] many readers of Patrick have noted in the Confessio echoes and references to a number of non-canonical early Christian writings. Continue reading

SSP: The Confessio

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.

Saint Patrick of Ireland

Saint Patrick of Ireland

The Confessio was remarkably preserved, having circulated since at least the seventh century, and remains at least partially extant in eight early medieval manuscripts.[1] As for when the Confessio was written, it appears to have come near the end of the saint’s life (“This is my confession before I die.”), after he had spent appreciable time in Ireland.[2] Patrick’s lack of personal names and dates provides little information for an exact dating. Following a general timeline of his life, however, we may safely date the final form of the Confessio to between 455 and 461 CE. The genre of this writing has been a somewhat debated topic, for its contents do not seem uniform in nature.[3] As John Morris writes, “His [Patrick’s] writings were not autobiographical, not arranged chronologically, but are tracts written for specific purposes.”[4] Continue reading

MHT: Applying Historical Theology

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.

Apostolic FathersWhat does a methodology invested in both history and theology look like? First, this perspective suggests an examination of the past for the sake of the future. This means conceiving of historical theology as a tool box for investigating, understanding, and applying the points of connection between history, Biblical exegesis, and the traditions of the Church. Christian dogma cannot be justified by tradition, history, exegesis, or experience alone; instead, all these forces should converge to support the great mission of the Great Church.[58] Second, this method suggests that historical theology must become engaged with ecumenical concerns, not disregarding the boundaries of historic and current theological differences, but transcending those discussions for the sake of common causes. In particular, historical theology which affirms a dialectical interpretation of change may help differentiate between theological difference and theological error, allowing for divergences between Christian bodies to be understood as complimentary rather than contradictory.[59] Similarly, a historical theology rooted in history and theology has value for interreligious dialogue. For example, the theological similarities between Augustine and the Advaita Vedanta philosopher Ramanuja[60] offers rich opportunities for Hindu-Christian dialogue on conceptions of God and reality. Continue reading

MHT: Pre-Modern Historical Consciousness

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine

While labels are always problematic in some sense, for the sake of this analysis perspectives on history are designated as broadly pre-Modern, Modern, or Postmodern.[2] Admittedly, this schema privileges somewhat the Modern narrative of superiority over the pre-Modern and employs conceptions of Modernity as the fulcrum point for our engagement with the rise of historical consciousness.[3] However, the application of these labels is meant neither to reify these categories nor to affirm the Modernist narrative. Instead, these terms are employed as terminological tools intended to assist in highlighting the different emphases of the broad movements of historians throughout time. Continue reading

Book Review: The Gospel of the Lord (Bird)

The Gospel of the Lord, BirdGospel Studies exists as a relatively neglected filed which has long taken a back seat to the study of the Historical Jesus or perspectives on Paul. Yet—argues Michael F. Bird—this realm of study stands ripe with opportunities for research and theological growth. To begin addressing the historical problem of how the life and teachings of Jesus became the four-fold gospel accounts of the New Testament, Bird offers The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. 394 pp). Driven by four guiding questions—Why pass on Jesus stories? How was the Jesus tradition transmitted? What is the gospel and what are the sources behind the gospels? Why four gospels and why the four gospels that we have?—this historical, literary, and theological study provides offers readers rich perspective into some of the most pressing questions of this important area of Early Christian Studies. Continue reading

21 Suggestions for Theological Study

OxfordSome time back, Joseph Torres published “30 Suggestions for Theological Students and Young Theologians” by John Frame. Below, I offer 21 suggestions for theological study, admittedly from the perspective of someone who could only be called a theological student and/or young theologian.

  1. Make God revealed in Christ the focus of your theological work. The fundamental work of theology is “faith seeking understanding”, to seek God and communicate His reality to humanity. If your theological project is not furthering God’s Kingdom, you’re not doing theology.

Continue reading

Book Review: Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Allen)

Luke Authorship of HebrewsFew queries surrounding the New Testament are as well known as the question regarding the authorship of Hebrews. Since the early centuries of Christianity—indeed, long before the New Testament canon was finalized—inquisitive readers have investigated who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Eusebius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Harnack (to name but a few) have theorized and argued about the identity of Hebrew’s author. No less a list than Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Luke, Silas, Peter, Clement of Rome, Priscilla and Aqulia, Ariston, Philip, Jude, Epaphras, John the Apostle, Timothy, and Mary (the Mother of Jesus) has been suggested as to whom this figure might be. In recent decades, those studying Paul have increasingly problematized claims that the Apostle’s authored Hebrews, making it less likely that the long-assumed writer of Hebrews actually penned the work. And despite the copious number of theories concerning other potential authors of Hebrews, rather little has been offered by way of solid conclusions. To address this noteworthy issue, a couple of years ago came David L. Allen’s Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010. 416 pgs). Continue reading

Numbering the Psalms?

Book of PsalmsThe Psalms have long been the hymnal of Christian worship. Jesus and his disciples sang the psalms of the Hebrew Bible and the practice continued with Paul and other early followers of Christ. In fact, insofar as we can tell, Christians of the first two centuries used the Psalm more than any other book of the Christian Old Testament.[1] As the Church continued to grow and other Christian liturgical materials appeared (for example, the Odes of Solomon and hymns of Ephrem and Ambrose), the Psalms continued to form the basis for much Christian worship. By the fourth and fifth centuries, numerous commentaries on the theological and historical meanings of the Psalms had appeared, further cementing the Psalms as the foundational source for Christian worship of God in Trinity. Continue reading