Ep23: Who Runs the Church?

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How to Approach Theology

New College CloistersTheology is important. Good theology is even more important. Everyone is called to “do” theology.1 These are guiding principles for my theological work, which I seek to undertake with thoughtfulness, faithfulness, and charity. Of course, to merely say (or write) that theology holds a place of value is not the same as actually living out one’s faith while seeking understanding.2 Too many times in my own life it is at the place where the proverbial “rubber hits the road” that my abstract, intellectualized theological principles fall prey to my sinful nature and laziness. As important as it is to speak truth, it is not enough to merely say the right things. As James says in his epistle, “Show me your faith apart from works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”3

Thus, truly good theology consists not only of thinking rightly about God, but also living rightly (and righteously) in his presence. Of course, this raises that all important question of how: how do we not only think but also live faithfully? In reflecting on this task, I have developed some practice-oriented musings for how we should live as Christians in today’s world, which I now submit as theses for discussion: Continue reading

Exodus from Bondage?

lukeResponse to “Exodus from Bondage: Luke 9:31 and Acts 12:1-24” by Susan Garrett

In her article “Exodus from Bondage: Luke 9:31 and Acts 12:1-24,” Susan Garrett argues that Luke employed a soteriology of exodus, wherein Jesus (and to a lesser extent, through thematic recapitulation, Peter) stood as true Israel and freed his people from bondage to Satan. Central for this paper is the collective memory of Israel, which Garrett suggests regularly drew upon the Exodus paradigm as a source of historical renewal for Israel. Picking up on these themes, Luke cast Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem as the faithful journey of Moses to the Promised Land. Culminating in his passion and resurrection, Jesus leads the better exodus and leads the people of Israel from bondage to Satan. Whereas ancient Israel sought to inherit the land, Luke indicates that only through the formation of the Christian community in Jerusalem—the Christ-follower inheritance of the land—may God’s promise to Abraham truly be fulfilled. Continue reading

Redeeming Halloween

826439-halloween-copyHappy Halloween! Or Happy Reformation Day. Or Happy All Hallow’s Eve. Or maybe I should just wish you all a Happy(-ish) Monday.

For many Christians, October 31 seems marked with uncertainty. Yes, we all enjoy seeing (and buying, but this isn’t the place for personal confessions) the gigantic bags of candy in the grocery store. And most of us enjoy seeing hilariously clever punny costumes. But for many others, the celebration of Halloween brings us back to that seemingly never ending question concerning how we should interact with culture. Halloween today seems far less innocent than it did even ten or fifteen years ago. Back in those days, as Richard Mouw has noted, Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Bibliography

This post is the final in our series on Women in the Apostolic Fathers. For a complete copy of this paper, please email me at prahlowjj [at] slu.edu.

Ancient Syriac ManuscriptAncient Sources

Acts of Thecla. Edited and translated by Jeremy W. Barrier. The Acts of Paul and Thecla: A Critical Introduction and Commentary. WUNT 2, 270. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009.

Apostolic Constitutions. Edited and translated by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Cox. Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume 7: Fathers of the third and Fourth Centuries. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Conclusions

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Apostolic FathersThrough consideration of several pericopes from the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, this study has argued that these authors conceived of women as having properly ordered roles in the Christian Church, roles which could include familial and visionary functions. In First Clement, biblical women were employed as examples for the congregation at Corinth. Second Clement reinforced the Pauline idea that the relationship between Christ and the Church was akin to that of husband and wife, both of whom contain fleshly and spiritual components. The epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp reveal an emphasis on church order and ecclesiastical hierarchy which affects how all Christians—both women and men—should live their lives. These epistles also demonstrate that women held positions of some standing in certain Christian communities, including groups of “virgins called widows”, house-holding women, traveling (diaconal?) women, and individually outstanding women. In the Shepherd of Hermas, women serve as revelers of God’s truths, images of the Church herself, and teachers of women and children. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Visionary Women in Hermas (Part III)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 2.4.1-3[1]

Ἀπεκαλύφθη δέ μοι, ἀδελφοί, κοιμωμένῳ ὑπὸ νεανίσκου εὐειδεστάτου λέγοντός μοι· τὴν πρεσβυτέραν, παρ᾿ ἧς ἔλαβες τὸ βιβλίδιον, τίνα δοκεῖς εἶναι; ἐγώ φημι· τὴν Σίβυλλαν. πλανᾶσαι, φησίν, οὐκ ἔστιν. τίς οὖν ἐστιν; φημί. ἡ ἐκκλησία, φησίν. εἶπον αὐτῷ· διατί οὖν πρεσβυτέρα; ὅτι, φησίν, πάντων πρώτη ἐκτίσθη· διὰ τοῦτο πρεσβυτέρα, καὶ διὰ ταύτην ὁ κόσμος κατηρτίσθη. 2. μετέπειτα δὲ ὅρασιν εἶδον ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ μου. ἦλθεν ἡ πρεσβυτέρα καὶ ἠρώτησέν με εἰ ἤδη τὸ βιβλίον δέδωκα τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις. ἠρνησάμην δεδωκέναι. καλῶς, φησίν, πεποίηκας· ἔχω γὰρ ῥήματα προσθεῖναι. ὅταν οὖν ἀποτελέσω τὰ ῥήματα πάντα, διὰ σοῦ γνωρισθήσεται τοῖς ἐκλεκτοῖς πᾶσιν. 3. γράψεις οὖν δύο βιβλαρίδια καὶ πέμψεις ἓν Κλήμεντι καὶ ἓν Γραπτῇ. πέμψει οὖν Κλήμης εἰς τὰς ἔξω πόλεις, ἐκείνῳ γὰρ ἐπιτέτραπται. Γραπτὴ δὲ νουθετήσει τὰς χήρας καὶ τοὺς ὀρφανούς. σὺ δὲ ἀναγνώσῃ εἰς ταύτην τὴν πόλιν μετὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων τῶν προϊσταμένων τῆς ἐκκλησίας. While I was sleeping, brothers, I received a revelation from a very beautiful young man, who said to me: “The elderly woman from whom you received the little book—who do you think she is?” “The Sibyl,” I replied. “You are wrong,” he said; “it is not she.” “Who then is it?” I asked. “The church,” he said. I said to him, “Why then is she elderly?” “Because,” he said, “she was created first, before anything else. That is why she is elderly, and for her sake the world was created.” 2. And afterward I saw a vision in my house. The elderly woman came and asked if I had already given the book to the presbyters. I said that I had not. “You have done well,” she said. “For I have some words to add. Then, when I complete all the words, they will be made known through you to all those who are chosen. 3. And so, you will write two little books, sending one to Clement and the other to Grapte. Clement will send his to the foreign cities, for that is his commission. But Grapte will admonish the widows and orphans. And you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church.”

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Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Visionary Women in Hermas (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 1.2.2-4.1[1]

1.2 ταῦτά μου συμβουλευομένου καὶ διακρίνοντος ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ μου βλέπω κατέναντί μου καθέδραν λευκὴν ἐξ ἐρίων χιονίνων γεγονυῖαν μεγάλην· καὶ ἦλθεν γυνὴ πρεσβῦτις ἐν ἱματισμῷ λαμπροτάτῳ, ἔχουσα βιβλίον εἰς τὰς χεῖρας, καὶ ἐκάθισεν μόνη καὶ ἀσπάζεταί με· Ἑρμᾶ, χαῖρε. κἀγὼ λυπούμενος καὶ κλαίων εἶπον· κυρία, χαῖρε…. 3.3 μετὰ τὸ παῆναι αὐτῆς τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα λέγει μοι· θέλεις ἀκοῦσαί μου ἀναγινωσκούσης; λέγω κἀγώ· θέλω, κυρία. λέγει μοι· γενοῦ ἀκροατὴς καὶ ἄκουε τὰς δόξας τοῦ θεοῦ. ἤκουσα μεγάλως καὶ θαυμαστῶς ὃ οὐκ ἴσχυσα μνημονεῦσαι· πάντα γὰρ τὰ ῥήματα ἔκφρικτα, ἃ οὐ δύναται ἄνθρωπος βαστάσαι…. 4.1 Ὅτε οὖν ἐτέλεσεν ἀναγινώσκουσα καὶ ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῆς καθέδρας, ἦλθαν τέσσαρες νεανίαι καὶ ἦραν τὴν καθέδραν καὶ ἀπῆλθον πρὸς τὴν ἀνατολήν. 1.2 While I was mulling these things over in my heart and trying to reach a decision, I saw across from me a large white chair, made of wool, white as snow. And an elderly woman came, dressed in radiant clothes and holding a book in her hands. She sat down, alone, and addressed me, “Greetings, Hermas.” And I said, still upset and weeping, “Greetings Lady.” … 3.3 When she finished these words, she said to me, “Do you want to hear me read?” I replied to her, “Yes, Lady, I do.” She said to me, “Be a hearer and hear the glories of God.” I heard great and amazing matters that I could not remember. For all the words were terrifying, more than a person can bear…. 4.1 Then, when she finished reading and rose up from the chair, four young men came and took the chair and went away to the east.

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Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Visionary Women in Hermas (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Shepherd of HermasPerhaps no other piece of early Christian literature gives women such prominent and significant roles as does the Shepherd of Hermas.[1] Of course, the visionary character of Hermas allows commentators to conclude little about the meanings of the visions and even less about the lives of real Roman women. Nonetheless, an investigation of some women in Hermas reveals the revelatory authority that females could have for some early Christians. Continue reading