Gnosticism, Women, and Elaine Pagels

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting upon Women and Gender in Early Christianity.

GnosticsFor today’s reflection, I outline and reflect on Elaine Pagels’ “What Became of God as Mother? Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity.”[1] In so doing I argue that while Pagels’ approach to the question of the divine feminine remains an important aspect of early Christian thinking, her characterization of the category “gnostic” remains unhelpful for framing the study of these documents. Continue reading

The Acts of Paul and Pastoral Epistles

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting upon Women and Gender in Early Christianity.

Catacomb image of Paul and (possibly) Thecla

Catacomb image of Paul and (possibly) Thecla

In his article “I Permit No Woman to Teach Except for Thecla: The Curious Case of the Pastoral Epistles and the Acts of Paul Reconsidered” (Novum Testamentum 54 (2012): 176-203), Matthijs den Dulk offers a reanalysis of the relationship between the Acts of Paul (hereafter APl) and Pastoral Epistles (hereafter PE), arguing that a) the APl rely upon the PE (contra MacDonald); 2) the author of the APl viewed the image of Paul from 2 Timothy as useful; and 3) the author of the APl rejected the authority of 1 Timothy and its attendant conception of Paul. Building from existing studies of the relationship between the PE and APl, den Dulk advocates an analysis of the interplay of these texts on an individual rather than collective level. Through structural, linguistic, and feminist analysis, den Dulk then argues that the APl agrees with 2 Timothy on a number of substantial points and perspectives. 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

The Marcion Problem: Tertullian (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Marcion of Sinope and his influence on the development of the New Testament canon.
Tertullian of Cathage

Tertullian of Cathage

In comparison to all other extant ancient works, the writings of Tertullian of Carthage against Marcion remain the fullest and most precise rejection of Marcion’s theology. Tertullian composed as least six works against Marcion, including his Prescription against Heresies and Five Books against Marcion which are extant today.[37] In the Prescription against Heretics, Tertullian made a number of accusations concern Marcion’s use of scripture, canon, and authority, perhaps the most clear being that Marcion had induced a schism within Catholic church authority.[38] Writing somewhat generally, Tertullian wrote that Marcion introduced new material to the Christian faith,[39] formed a theology based on philosophical thought that moved beyond the teachings of Christ and the ‘rule of faith,’[40] twisted and distorted Christian scriptures,[41] and had moved Christian faith away from its Jewish and apostolic roots to a new theology.[42] Continue reading

Women and the Church? Reflections from Romans

In addition to writing here, I also serve as Managing Editor at Conciliar Post, a website dedicated to faithful and serious thinking about important topics. One of the many things I enjoy about Conciliar Post are the monthly Round Table discussions, where several writers offer answers to a question about a contemporary cultural or theological issue. January’s Round Table was about the role of women in the Christian Church. After reading my contribution (below), I would encourage you to visit this discussion on Conciliar Post.

Women in the ChurchQ: What is the appropriate place and role of women in the Christian Church?

In answer to this question (or rather, as the beginning of an answer which extends beyond the brief remarks offered here), I want to take a historical and textual approach to the earliest Christian communities as referenced in Romans 16. When discussing the role of women in the Church, many Christians seem to take a perspective of “There isn’t biblical evidence for female pastors; therefore there shouldn’t be female pastors”, effectively ending their discussions of the subject there. Evidence for this view, in my opinion, seems tenuous at times, as I hope to demonstrate below. Continue reading

Book Review: The Church According to Paul (Thompson)

The Church According to Paul, ThompsonThe Christian church is facing a crisis. It is losing face, hemorrhaging influence in the public sphere of Western civilization, churches are declining in membership, and increasing swaths of people are not longer interested in what Christianity has to offer. This apparent decline is not a new trend to be sure—and stems, at least in part, from the ecclesiastical shift which began during the Protestant Reformation—but it is no less concerning. In order to address these concerns, Christians of all denominations and contexts have been recasting the church in various molds: as a political action committee, a corporation, a theater, an association or country club, the emerging church, or as a missional organization, to name a few. According to The Church According to Paul, this last option, in which the Church is defined by its mission to express the gospel of Christ in the community of God throughout the world, best represents the view of the Christian Church presented by the Apostle Paul. Continue reading

Book Review: Evolution of the Word (Borg)

Evolution of the Word, BorgIn Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written (HarperOne, New York, 2012), scholar Marcus J. Borg presents the books of the New Testament in chronological order. In an attempt to demonstrate the development of the early Christian concept of Word, both the Word of God (Jesus Christ) and the Words of God (the writings of the New Testament), Borg re-orders the writings of the New Testament into the order he believes they were originally written. Beginning with thirty pages of introductory material on the chronology of the New Testament, the context of the early followers of Jesus, and the historical and literary context of Paul, Borg sets the stage for the writings of the New Testament.  The New Testament then follows in this order: 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Mark, James, Colossians, Matthew, Hebrews, John, Ephesians, Revelation, Jude, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Luke, Acts, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Peter, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Peter. The text of each book is that of the New Revised Standard Version (1989), with standard chapters, versification, section headings, and NRSV textual notes. Preceding each book are some brief remarks by Borg, including some explanation for his dating of each respective work. In this way, The Evolution of the Word looks somewhat like a NRSV New Testament, simply re-arranged according to Borg’s chronology. Continue reading