Book Review: Guilt by Association (Smith)

Guilt by Association (Smith)Since the publication of Walter Bauer’s Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerie im ältesten Christentum in 1934, the issue of discerning orthodoxy and heresy in earliest Christianity has taken on renewed importance. Amidst this reinvigorated study, however, scholars have by-and-large failed to appropriately consider the insights of Christian heretical catalogues, or so argues Geoffrey S. Smith in Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity. In this volume, Smith investigates some of the most powerful weapons in the early Church’s battles for legitimacy and authority, arguing that heresy catalogues should be approached as sources for understanding early Christian boundary-definitions and claims of orthodoxy. Continue reading

The Marcion Question: Introduction

Over the next several weeks, Pursuing Veritas will be examining the theology of Marcion of Sinope, especially his role in the formation of Christian Scripture, Authority, and Canon.

Marcion of SinopeMarcion of Sinope remains one of the most intriguing and polarizing figures in the discussion of Early Christianity.[1] Labeled everything from the true originator of the Christian canon to arch-heretic, the unique views of Marcion continue to foster scholarly analysis within the field of Early Christian and Ancient Mediterranean Studies. Marcion of stands apart as an example of an early Christian whose conception of God and authority were such that his beliefs placed him outside what were argued to be the acceptable boundaries of the youth church. Perhaps most intriguing was Marcion’s use of early Christian writings as authoritative and his collection of some of these writings into the first specifically Christian canon of writings. Understanding Marcion’s theology, as well as his role in the collection, use, and canonization of Christian writings, has long been the project of historians. In an attempt to understand Marcion’s conceptions of scripture, canon, and authority, this paper examines Marcion’s views from a number of perspectives, arguing that for Marcion the work and words of Jesus of Nazareth were understood to uniquely reveal the purposes of the supreme God of the universe in such a way that any hermeneutical position denigrating that uniqueness, be they writings or traditions, were argued to be unauthoritative for followers of Jesus. Continue reading

ECA: Definitions

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Early Christian Authority.

DefinitionThe great Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero once said that “every argument about something which is rationally undertaken should proceed from a definition so that it is understood what is being disputed.”[1] The importance of clear definitions, however, has often been neglected by those studying early Christian conceptions of “scripture”, “tradition”, and “authority.” As this series on Early Christian Authority continues, over the next several weeks I will begin outlining the thought of (heretic) Marcion of Sinope. Before engaging Marcion, however, we must offer some tentative working definitions for these important terms. I say “tentative” and “working” because a) I expect the issue of clear definitions will be one that I return to, hopefully in greater depth, before too long and b) because my own thought on the definitions of these terms continues to be formed through the reading of secondary literature and my interactions with early Christian sources. Continue reading

Forming and Defining the New Testament Canon

BibleQuestions concerning the Bible have long surrounded the Christian Faith.[1] What is the Bible? Where did it come from? Who wrote the books that are in Bible? Can we trust that fallible human beings wrote and chose the correct books for canonization? Occasionally, scholars will doubt the historical veracity of Christian Bible based upon its “late” creation, years after the events it purports to recount took place.[2] An important part of understanding the historicity and reliability of the Christian Bible involves understanding the formation of the New Testament, as understanding this history of canonization shed light on the contents and context of the Christian Bible more broadly. Continue reading