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.

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SSP: The Contents of Patrick’s Bible (Part I)

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

Gospel Writers

Gospel Writers

Patrick’s overarching approach to the scriptures in hand, I now turn to some more specific considerations of his citations from the Old and New Testaments. Of central importance for Patrick were the Gospels (primarily Matthew and Luke), Pauline Epistles (especially Romans and the Corinthian correspondences), and the Psalter.[1] To briefly touch on the value of these writings for Patrick, the Gospels served not only as the source for knowing Christ Jesus, but also provided the missionary impetus which guided Patrick’s life. His quotation of Matthew 24:14 and 28:19-20 in Confessio 40 stands as the clearest example of how these biblical texts provide the foundation for Patrick’s life and work.[2] Continue reading

Book Review: The Pauline Effect (Strawbridge)

The Pauline EffectWhile the influence of Pauline writings on early Christianity remains widely recognized, few studies investigate the particulars of Paul’s theological and exegetical influence on ante-Nicene Christianity. Beginning this immense task of studying the specific reception histories of Pauline pericopes is Jennifer Strawbridge’s The Pauline Effect, winner of the 2014 SBL-De Gruyter Prize for Biblical Studies and Reception History. This volume examines how Paul and his letters—particularly the texts of 1 Corinthians 2.6-16, Ephesians 6.10-17, 1 Corinthians 15.50-58, and Colossians 1.15-20—shaped early Christian theology and practice. Among the contributions of this volume is the argument that early Christian use of Paul reveals definitive development of Christian formation as “progress from one level of wisdom to another” (4). 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: Who Made Early Christianity? (Gager)

9780231174046Contemporary readers of the New Testament are often struck by the overwhelming influence of the Apostle Paul. After not appearing at all in the gospels and barely appearing in the first half of Acts, he comes to dominate most of the rest of the New Testament canon. Despite his popularity, however, Paul remains a controversial figure, the historical interpretations of his thought incredibly varied and the history of his influence remaining uneven across time. Nowhere is this contestation more evident than in current Pauline Studies, that field of New Testament and Biblical Studies which focuses on understanding the life and theology of the Apostle to the Gentiles. In contribution to this realm of inquiry comes John G. Gager’s latest monograph, Who Made Early Christianity? The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), which pushed back against conceptions of Paul and early Christianity which simultaneously sound the triumph of Christianity and the decimation of Judaism. Continue reading

Book Review: Paul’s Message and Ministry in Covenant Perspective (Hafemann)

Paul's Message and Ministry in Covenant Perspective (Hafemann)There has been no shortage of scholarship on Paul in the last 150 years, as theologians and biblical scholars alike have taken up writing about Paul en masse. Amid the voluminous tomes on the Apostle, certain voices ring out more clearly than the others, beckoning readers to take up Paul with fresh insight. Scott J. Hafemann’s Paul’s Message and Ministry in Covenant Perspective, collected essays on Paul’s ministry and message from the perspective of covenantal theology stands as such a work, providing theological and exegetical insight from across twenty-five years of research on the Apostle Paul and his letters to the church at Corinth. Continue reading

Book Review: Lord Jesus Christ (Hurtado)

Lord Jesus ChristMagnum opus remains a term best reserved for the crowning achievement of a scholar’s life and work, the pinnacle at the top of decades of research, writing, and sharpening arguments. These great works comprehensively examine and engage their field of work and, at their best, even redefine the field for years to come. Such is Larry W. Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 746pp.). Hurtado’s magnum opus—now approaching fifteen years old—not only transformed the field of early Christian studies, but also continues to offer insights and ways forward for contemporary scholars. Continue reading