Scripture in Ephrem’s Madrashe

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Ephrem the Syrian and early Syriac Christianity.
Ephrem the Syrian

Ephrem the Syrian

While most analysis of Syrian madrashe has focused on its metrical form, authorship, origins, and liturgical setting, comparatively little attention has been paid to the contents of the madrashe. To form a fully contextualized understanding of Syrian madrashe, additional attention should be paid to the theological nature and contents of madrashe, especially its relationship to scripture. Finally, the particular manner in which Ephrem “rewrites” scripture for his community of faith is worthy of additional attention, as this feature of his writing points to the need for study on how madrashe employ and co-opt scripture. The essay which follows reflects on the place and function of scripture in Ephrem’s madrashe. Continue reading

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Book Review: As One Devil to Another (Platt)

978-1-4143-7166-5Many readers of C. S. Lewis have enjoyed reading his Screwtape Letters, a series of correspondences between two demons, the instructor Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, as they attempt to secure the damnation of their human “patient.” As delightfully diabolical and insightful as Lewis’ work is, however, few writers have adopted his style of “apologetics-by-dialogue” from the beyond. That has all changed with Richard Platt’s As One Devil to Another. Continue reading

Origins of the New Testament

New TestamentThe two most common questions that I am asked are some variation of “Where did we get the New Testament?” or “Why are these specific books included in the New Testament?”1 Obviously complete answers to these questions are long, nuanced, and complex (i.e., scholarly discussions of dissertation length answer). But there are also relatively straight-forward and easy-to-understand answers to these questions. Today, I want to tackle the first of these queries: Where did we get the New Testament? Continue reading

C. S. Lewis on Myth (Part III)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining C. S. Lewis’s view of “myth.”

Lewis on MiraclesIn Miracles, Lewis reflects on the importance of myth in regards to the Old Testament and Israel. Lewis writes that “The Hebrews, like other people, had mythology: but as they were the chosen people so their mythology was the chosen mythology –the mythology chosen by God to be the vehicle of the earliest sacred truths, the first step in that process which ends in the New Testament where truth has become completely historical” (Miracles, 218). For Lewis, myth is historically important in creating the context of beliefs for the truly factual, the person and work of Jesus Christ. He writes that “Just as God is none the less God by being Man, so the Myth remains Myth even when it becomes Fact. The story of Christ demands us, and repays, not only a religious and historical but also an imaginative response” (Ibid., 218) Continue reading

C. S. Lewis on Myth (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining C. S. Lewis’s view of “myth.”

An Experiment in CriticismIn An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis approached “myth” in several ways, most importantly as a story which has “a value in itself –a value independent of its embodiment in any literary work” (Experiment in Criticism, 41). Here Lewis defined myth in several ways. First, myth is ‘extra-literary’ as it has value outside its manifestation within a literary context. Second, myth elicits pleasure from the reader, but not pleasure based upon any specific literary device such as surprise or suspense (Ibid., 43). Third, human sympathy is minimal –the reader generally does not project himself into the myth (Ibid., 44). Fourth, myth is fantastic and deals with the seemingly impossible (Ibid., 44). Fifth, the experience of the myth, while possibly joyful or sad, is always serious and grave (Ibid., 44). Finally, even within the midst of the seriousness, the myth is awe-inspiring, portraying the communication of some great truth to the reader (Ibid., 44). From this literary perspective, the importance of myth to Lewis was the experience: “When I talk of myths I mean myths as we experience them: that is, myths contemplated but not believed, dissociated from ritual, held up before the fully waking imagination of a logical mind” (Ibid., 45). Myth is to be thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, and contemplated. Yet, the appreciation of myth does not necessarily have to be literary and scholarly. While any man can read myth, only the truly literary will be impacted by both the literature for its own sake as well as the delight that accompanies the meaning behind the myth (Ibid., 46-47). Having viewed Lewis’ literary approach, we now turn to examining his perspective on myths in terms of their historicity. Continue reading

American Christianity and the Hell of Paradise Lost

HellfireIn at least some contemporary circles, the topic of the afterlife and Hell are hot topics (pardon the pun). This is especially true within numerous Christian communities as they react to the perspectives of various pastors and scholars on hell and the state on non-Christians after death. It seems safe to say that most Americans know something about the concept of hell—that fiery place of torment that you go to if you’re not up to snuff with St. Peter (or something like that). And while numerous religious perspectives conceive of something similar to the Christian conception of hell (think of Hades for the ancient Greeks), what many people don’t realize is that the hell commonly conceived of by Americans isn’t really based on Biblical portrayals of someplace called hell. Indeed, much of what we think about hell and its prince, Satan, comes not from any scriptural text, but instead from the epic poetry of John Milton.[1] In this post, we will examine some of the Hell portrayed in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Continue reading

Book Review: The Genesis of the Dead (Casberg)

Genesis of the Dead (Casberg)As a PhD student, I read a lot. I read for work, school, and fun—hundreds, sometimes thousands of pages each week. Very rarely, however, do I encounter a book that is uproariously funny. Even rarer are books which are simultaneously hilarious and theologically sound. C. T. Casberg’s Genesis of the Dead: A Zombie Comedy of Biblical Proportions, however, fits this bill perfectly. Continue reading

100 Best Books of the Christian Tradition

Top 100While I’m the last person who is truly qualified to offer such a list, Church Times recently offered a list of the 100 Best Books of the Christian Tradition, and, as a graduate student studying the History of Christianity, I happen to read a lot of books belonging to the Christian tradition. And I like making lists. So I figured I would try my hand at listing the 100 Best Book of the Christian Tradition. Before starting, three notes: 1) these are not intended to strictly be the “best” books (I still have a lot to read), bur rather important works worth reading; 2) while the list is in some sort of order, the hierarchy is not overly rigid; and 3) his list contains only books I’ve read at least substantial portions of, and does not include works I have not read in some fashion. Continue reading

ECA: First Clement

Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome

To “kick off” our Early Christian Authority Series, we begin with First Clement, which is the earliest non-canonical, specifically Christian, and still extant writing available to us today. First Clement claims to have been written from the Church at Rome to the Church at Corinth, and seems to have been written around 95-96 CE (though I hasten to note that it could have been composed almost anytime between 64 and 99 CE). Since at least the mid- to late- second century, First Clement was thought to have been written by Clement of Rome, who was the second or third bishop of Rome, holding office from around 92 to 99 CE. Additionally, from at least the mid-second century until sometime in the fifth century, First Clement was used a “scripture” by various Christian communities, being read aloud during corporate worship in Corinth and other Christian communities. This is attested to by Dionysius of Corinth and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 4.23), as well as the letter’s inclusion in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. This post broadly examines First Clement’s use of existing sources of authority. Continue reading

Planet Narnia: Part Two

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.

dawn_treaderMy previous post introduced Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis,[1] in which he argues that the medieval conception of the Seven Heavens serves as the basis for the seven Chronicles of Narnia, with Lewis using the characteristic ethos of each planetary intelligence as the paradigm for his books. In this post, we turn to an explicit consideration of how the evidence of the Chronicles of Narnia fits Ward’s theory through consideration of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We also consider how these stories have been so popular over the past fifty years, and why no one previously mentioned the theme of the Seven Heavens. Continue reading