Scripture in 1 Clement: Composite Citation of the Gospels (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the function and use of scripture in the early Christian writing known as 1 Clement.

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

Clement’s relationship with written Christian texts remains far more difficult to parse than his near constant reliance on Jewish scriptures. Arguments have been made for this epistle’s use of nearly every writing now in the New Testament, [1] although in no place does Clement introduce a possible reference to these writings with anything other than a “he says/said” introduction.[2] Clement’s lack of clear citations to Christian literature contributes to the major divergence of scholarly opinion regarding this letter’s possible use of materials from the Synoptic Gospels.  Commonly noted possible parallels include the sayings on mercy and forgiveness found in 1 Clement 13.2,[3] the reference to the Parable of the Sower found in 1 Clement 24:5,[4] and the quotation of Isaiah 29:13 in 1 Clement 15:2, where Clement agrees with the form found in Matthew 15:8 and Mark 7:6 over LXX Isaiah.[5] Continue reading

ECA: Gnostic and Anti-Gnostic

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

Nag Hammadi CodicesSome of the clearest indications that the early Church faced disagreements and divisions have been preserved in the writings on Gnostic Christian traditions and writings opposed to such movements. While various strands of Christian thought differed in their use and interpretation of extant Jewish and Christian writings, both orthodox and gnostic groups seem to have claimed for the scriptures as a form of authority. The diverse knowledge of and use of such writings demonstrates that each group sought to preserve the uniqueness of their movement by the utilization of extant texts and traditions. In today’s post, we examine four extant works of the Gnostic/anti-Gnostic genre of literature, including the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Epistle of the Apostles, Third Letter to the Corinthians, and Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora. Continue reading

Thinking About “Q”

Gospel WritersIf you read the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) you’ll notice a few things. First, Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain a lot (a LOT) of the same (or at least similar) stories and parables. In fact, if you sat down and compared similar how similar the Synoptics are, you would find that approximately 76% of Mark is mirrored in 41% of Luke and 45% of Matthew. In other words, a significant part of Mark’s gospel materials (the stories, parables, sayings, narratives, etc) seems to have found it’s way into Luke and Matthew’s gospels. This material is called “Triple Tradition” (or sometimes Synoptic tradition– it’s found in all three synoptic gospels). Examples of Triple Tradition include Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), the Parable of the Sower (Mathew 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8), and the Calming of the Storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). Continue reading

Comparing the Historical Jesus: Birth Narratives

This is part of our ongoing series comparing the perspectives of J. D. Crossan and N. T. Wright on the Historical Jesus.

Birth of JesusCrossan understands the canonical birth narratives to be theological fictions, as Mark, Q, and the Gospel of Thomas, which he views as the earliest historical sources, do not contain any form of birth narrative. Drawing Jesus into parallel with Caesar Augustus, Crossan writes concerning the miraculous birth narratives that, “greatness later on, when everybody was paying attention, is retrojected onto earlier origins, when nobody was interested. A marvelous life and death demands and gets, in retrospect, a marvelous conception and birth.”[1] Crossan understands the birth narrative of the Lucan account as comparing the birth of Jesus to that of John, who Crossan argues to be more historically prominent.[2] Similarly, the Matthean birth and flight narrative seeks to portray Jesus in light of the life and exodus of Moses, reflecting a theological rather than historical origin.[3] Crossan argues that certain canonical gospel narratives, including the birth narrative, are not historically accurate but rather are theological narrative based upon a reading of Old Testament prophecies and events into the life and times of Jesus. Accounts of the virgin birth, the Davidic line, the magi, shepherds, angels, role of King Herod, and flight to Egypt are all derived not from historical events, but instead a specific reading of Old Testament texts[4] and general chronological data about the life of Jesus that would have been known by his earliest disciples.[5] Thus, Crossan places little historical importance on the birth narratives of Jesus, arguing that in all likelihood he was born and raised like every other Galilean Jewish peasant in the first century. Continue reading

Comparing the Historical Jesus: Sources

This is part of our ongoing series comparing the perspectives of J. D. Crossan and N. T. Wright on the Historical Jesus.
John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan

Of great importance for all historical study are the sources used in forming narrative perspectives. Some historians are relatively inclusive in their acceptance of source material, drawing from a wide variety of disciplines and quality of material. Others are more selective in the criterion employed to discern source materials for their historical reconstructions. Crossan falls into the later camp, as he employs relatively few sources in his construction of the historical Jesus. Crossan believes that the fourfold narrative of the canonical gospels presents a problem for modern Christianity, and that the historical truth behind the canonical Jesus must be discovered using only the earliest materials.[1] For his construction, Crossan employs three forms of material. First, he engages in use of cross-cultural anthropology to provide a general understanding of the first century Jewish-Mediterranean context.[2] Second, he considers the accounts of the Greco-Roman and Jewish historians of the age, chiefly Tacitus and Josephus.[3] These accounts Crossan treats with a certain level of scrutiny on most points, [4] though some have argued that his critique on non-Christian historical sources only seems to appear in Crossan’s work when his construction cannot make sense of the status quo within the traditional historical record. Continue reading