Scripture among the Apologists: Justin, Logos, and Paul

The Gospel of JohnOn Justin’s conception of the logos, much has also been written. Perhaps most important is that prior to the Apology, only in Johannine literature is Jesus identified with the logos.[i] On this Pryor writes that, “Outside the Johannine tradition there is no evidence of an explicit Logos Christology in the first century. Indeed, even here the explicit evidence is narrowed to three places: John 1:1-14, Rev. 19:3, and 1 John 1:1.”[ii] While Justin never explicitly quotes from the prologue of John, there are numerous allusions to language from that passage, as well as multiple theological connections.[iii] Contextually, it is imperative to recall that Justin would receive no assistance from naming his sources, for the Emperor would not have granted any sort of authority to John’s Gospel.[iv] Justin’s reliance on Logos theology pervades his Apology. To again cite Pryor, “There simply is no evidence that the apologists derived their initial impetus for developing a Logos Christology from any other source except Johannine Christianity.”[v] Thus, it seems very likely that Justin found the Fourth Gospel and its Logos doctrine a formative source for his Apology. Continue reading

In the Mail: An Anomalous Jew

image1Upon arrival at Saint Louis University this morning, I was pleased to find Michael Bird’s An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans (Eerdmans, 2016). I am most thankful to Eerdmans for sending this my way, and look forward to reading and reviewing what promises to be a stellar read.

From the Eerdman’s catalogue: “Though Paul is often lauded as the first great Christian theologian and a champion for Gentile inclusion in the church, in his own time he was universally regarded as a strange and controversial person. In this book Pauline scholar Michael Bird explains why.

An Anomalous Jew presents the figure of Paul in all his complexity with his blend of common and controversial Jewish beliefs and a faith in Christ that brought him into conflict with the socio-religious scene around him. Bird elucidates how the apostle Paul was variously perceived — as a religious deviant by Jews, as a divisive figure by Jewish Christians, as a purveyor of dubious philosophy by Greeks, and as a dangerous troublemaker by the Romans. Readers of this book will better understand the truly anomalous shape of Paul’s thinking and worldview.”

What Happened to the Apostles?

Apostolic Fathers IconWhile Christians often think about the death (and resurrection!) of Jesus, many Christians (especially Protestants) rarely consider how the earliest followers of Jesus lived out their last moments on earth. In part, this is because–unlike with Jesus–we have relatively few historically credible accounts of the death of the earliest leaders of the Jesus Movement. What we do have are various church traditions and accounts of the martyrdoms and deaths of the Apostles and Evangelists. Below are short renditions of some of the more widely attested accounts of the testimonies of the deaths of the apostles.

Perhaps the most widely known tradition concerning apostolic martyrdom is that of Peter who is said to have been crucified in Rome upside down during the reign of the Emperor Nero (typically dated around 64 CE). According to tradition, Peter felt unworthy to die in the same manner as the Lord Jesus, and thus was apparently crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. Continue reading

The Trinity in the Early Church (Part II)

Holy SpiritHistorian J.W.C. Wand argues that the orthodox belief of the early church included the deity of the Holy Spirit, as it was essentially argued along with the deity of Christ in the Christological debates and was held as popular belief among Christians.[8] Yet as Rebecca Lyman argues that one cannot merely accept popular opinion as orthodoxy, for while popular belief in the church did play an important role in the defeat of Arianism, popular piety was a more divisive factor in later historical Christological debates, such as that between Cyril and Nestorius.[9] While one certainly cannot unwittingly conflate popular opinion as orthodoxy, the uniformity that existed between the orthodox Church Fathers and the general Christian population seems to indicate that worship and theology were intricately related in early Christianity, that belief and formalized doctrine were the same confession.[10] Often times the “differences” in doctrinal belief were simply a matter of use of “mutually confusing theological terms.”[11] Early Christians then used worship as the locus of their theological beliefs – how they worshiped is what they confessed. Continue reading

The Trinity in the Early Church (Part I)

Icon of the Holy Trinity (Rubilev)

Icon of the Holy Trinity (Rubilev)

The doctrine of the Trinity–espoused by the Cappadocian Fathers as “God is one object in Himself and three objects to Himself”–is commonly understood to be one of the more difficult concepts to grasp in Christian theology. Much of Early Church history revolved around debates concerning the Person of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the Father, and doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit was often not explicitly discussed. However by the time of the Cappadocian Fathers and Augustine, an explicit doctrine of the Trinity was emerging in Christendom (Kelly, 252). In her essay entitled “Why Three?” Sarah Coakley engages the Maurice Wiles’ perspective on the Trinity as espoused in his The Making of Christian Doctrine. Continue reading

Thinking about Salvation in Early Christianity (Part II)

Byzantine JesusMost early Christians seem to have lived with a fairly basic understanding of soteriology. Beginning with Tertullian of Carthage, however, deeper investigation into specific aspects of soteriological doctrine began to circulate within the Church.[14] Philosophical language and concepts began to find more frequent use among the Fathers, and soon after the Fathers began teaching that “Christ suffered for our sins, healing our wounds and destroying death by His blood, and that we have been restored to life and our sins purged by it.”[15] In the East, theologians such as Origen and Methodius debated the effect of Adam’s fall and its impact on human freewill, death, and the new Adam of Christ.[16] This eventually coalesced into statements indicating that, “sin called for a propitiation, and Christ stepped forward as ‘a victim spotless and innocent,’ propitiating the Father to men by His generous self-oblation.”[17] The developments in thought, influx of philosophical language, and challenges of geographic distance eventually led to different Christian centers processing different (at least slightly) beliefs regarding the person and work of Christ in human salvation.[18] Continue reading

Thinking about Salvation in Early Christianity (Part I)

diamaid-macculloch-christianityBy the early fourth century, the Christianity had spread across the Roman world with surprising speed, tenacity, and relative uniformity of belief. While the early Church was by no means completely uniform in doctrine, belief, or practice, the vast majority of Christians professed what has become known as Christian Orthodoxy.[1] Heresies such as Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Montanism, while threatening the fledgling Church, were never serious threats in the way that the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries were. Chief among the divisions in the fourth century was the question of the deity of Jesus of Nazareth:[2] was the founder of the Church human? Was He divine? Was He somehow both? The answer to this question was important for historical reasons, but was even more important for its soteriological implications. Continue reading

SSP: Confessio 25 and Romans 8

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

Confessio 25 & Romans 8:26  
Patrick O’Loughlin (154) ‘Likewise the Spirit helps the weakness of our prayers; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with ineffable sighs which cannot be expressed in words.’
  Bieler (72) & Conneely (37) Spiritus adiuuat infirmitates orationis nostrae: nam quod oremus sicut oportet nescimus: sed ipse Spiritus postulat pro nobis gemitibus inenarrabilibus…
Romans 8:26    
  Vulgate similiter autem et Spiritus adiuvat infirmitatem nostram nam quid oremus sicut oportet nescimus sed ipse Spiritus postulat pro nobis gemitibus inenarrabilibus
  d (5th c. France) Similiter autem et sps adiubat infirmitatem nam quid oremus si quod oportet nescimus sed ipse sps postulat gemitibus qui eloqui non possunt.
  f (8th-9thc. Western Europe)[1] Imilitur autem et sps adjuvat infirmitatem orationis nostrae; Nam quid oremus sicut oportet nescimus. Sed ipse sps postulat pro nobis gemitibus inenarrabilibus.
  z (8th c., British Isles)[2] Similiter aute et sps adiuuet infirmitatem nostrae; Na quid  oremus sicut oportet nescimus; Sed ipse sps postulat pro nobis gemitibus inenarrabilibus.

Continue reading