Spectrums of Scripture: Foregrounding Method

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

medieval-scienceThe method of reception practice should begin with the recognition of the need to clarify assumptions, the subjectivity of scholarship, and the transformative reception of ancient texts. Amid the winds of postmodern criticism, all scholarly discussions should foreground their confessional, methodological, and/or post-methodological claims. Methodology in the humanities involves drawing boundary lines around that which is studied and then offering comparative explanations for why those concerns are worthy of attention.[1] Thus, method should address the mechanics employed to draw those boundaries and make meaning of what comes within them.[2] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: The Intersection of Reception and Intertextuality

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Map of the InternetThis study’s location at the intersection of the ongoing conversations regarding reception history and intertextuality means that several aspects of these discussions are formative in the creation of a composite methodology for understanding uses of one source in another. Most broadly, the terminology of reception and “reception practices” is employed to describe the ancient phenomena of textual use, borrowing, and re-use. Second, reception history’s concern with pattern recognition and mapping are central to this project.  Brennan Breed summarizes the mandate of reception history as the need to “demonstrate the diversity of capacities, [and] organize them according to the immanent potentialities actualized by various individuals and communities over time….”[1] In significant ways, categorization and organization constitute the primary tasks of the methodological outlines below. Third, this project recognizes the limitations of reception history as currently constituted, especially the overemphasis on the literary contexts of texts and relative neglect of other sociocultural factors.[2] To begin addressing these concerns a number of the principles below incorporate theological and sociocultural insights. Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Intertexuality

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Richard B. Hays

Richard B. Hays

The phenomenon of intertextuality involves the imbedding of portions of one earlier text within a later text.[1] Intertextuality is more than exploring how writers cite other sources, but also why such citations were made and the effect of those intertexts.[2] Although scholars now recognize the practice of intertextuality in literature as ancient as Plato’s Socratic dialogues,[3] the term “intertextuality” itself is only several decades old. Building on M. M. Bakhtin’s notion of all utterances as double voiced (that is, responding to an addressee and a cultural milieu),[4] Julia Kristeva coined the term “intertextuality,” arguing that all texts are simultaneously in conversation with their audiences and their surrounding sociohistorical environments through the recycling of earlier texts.[5] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Reception History

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

rossano-gospel-good-samaritanSimply stated, reception history involves critical engagement with the history of meanings associated with a particular event or text.[1] As Jonathan Morgan summarizes, reception history moves beyond traditional interpretive practices and “combines various insights and methods drawn from philosophical hermeneutics, reception theory (which is closely associated with both reader-response criticism and audience theory) and certain literary-influenced trends in historiography and the philosophy of history.”[2] When applied to texts within faith traditions, reception history incorporates “texts, stories, images, and characters through the centuries in the form of citation, interpretation, reading, revision, adaptation, and influence” not only in clearly theological texts, but in “visual art, literature, music, politics, and other works of culture” too.[3] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Introduction

“For this reason, righteousness and peace are far removed, since each has abandoned the reverential awe of God and become dim-sighted in faith, failing to proceed in the ordinances of his commandments and not living according to what is appropriate in Christ. Instead, each one walks according to the desires of his evil heart, which have aroused unrighteous and impious jealousy—through which also death entered the world.”[1]

Sacred ScriptureThus reads 1 Clement 3:4, a passage which scholars have argued over for years. Is Clement building this passage around Isaiah 59:14? Is he citing Wisdom 2:24? What about the reference to the commandments: are there other reminiscences at work? These questions—here raised over 1 Clement’s use of the scriptures of Judaism—serve as paradigmatic queries for a whole host of late antique literature. Not only in 1 Clement but also in almost every other piece of literary evidence from the ancient world there appear reflections and citations of other literary sources.[2] Although scholars of late antiquity have long discussed these literary uses, nothing close to consensus has emerged on how to best understand and discuss these phenomena. Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Bibliography

Ancient Sources

Eccl. Hist. Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. Translated by G. A. Williamson. Revised and edited by Andrew Louth. London: Penguin Books, 1989.
Lives Jerome. Lives of Illustrious Men. Translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.
CA Josephus. Contra Apionem. Translated by William Whiston. The Works of Flavius Josephus in Four Volumes, Volume IV. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974.
Dialogue Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho. Translated by Thomas B. Falls. Revised by Thomas P. Halton. Selections from Fathers of the Church, Volume 3. Edited by Michael Slusser. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of American Press, 2003.
Apology –. First Apology. Translated by Leslie William Barnard. Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation 56. New York: Paulist Press, 1997.
Oration Tatian. Address to the Greeks. Translated by J.E. Ryland. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Roberts, Donaldson, and Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.
Autolycum Theophilus of Antioch. Ad Autolycum. Translated by Robert M. Grant. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970.
Acta The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs. Translated by Marcus Dods. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.


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Scripture among the Apologists: Conclusions

Open BibleThis study has examined the manner in which two early Christian apologists, Justin Martyr in his Apology and Theophilus of Antioch in Ad Autolycum, employed written sources in their writings. This study argues that Justin and Theophilus both demonstrated the authority of specifically Christian writings, especially in their use of the Fourth Gospel and implementation of Johannine logos theology. This study also suggested that a contextualized methodology constitutes a necessary component for accurate study of early Christian literature; that Justin and Theophilus employed a wide matrix of scriptural authorities in their writings; and that comparison of Justin and Theophilus underline important similarities and differences between these writers which inform the understanding of second century Christianity. It is the hope of this study to have fulfilled Theophilus’ final dictum in Ad Autolycum, to have read “these books carefully in order that [we] may have a counselor and pledge of the truth.”[ii]

[i] Hagner, 233. [ii] Autolycum 3.30.

Scripture among the Apologists: Differences

justin-martyr1Yet there are also considerable differences in these apologists’ approaches to written sources as well. Concerning Greco-Roman sources, while Justin remained primarily Platonic, Theophilus was more influenced by the Sibylline Oracles, Homer, and Hesiod. Justin’s philosophical background and prowess were considerably superior to Theophilus’ training, and Justin’s innovate recasting of Greco-Roman philosophical motifs was more innovate than anything Theophilus had to offer. Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Similarities

Apostolic FathersThe argument of this paper, that Justin and Theophilus each view specifically Christian writings as useful authorities for the construction of their apologetic works, has already been demonstrated. To more fully engage the considerations of the authority with which these two second century apologists viewed Christian sources, this study now offers a comparative analysis of how these two writers conceived of and employed written sources in the construction of their apologetic theologies, paying special attention to the function of the Gospel of John and Logos for each. Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Theophilus on Scripture

theophilus-of-antiochTheophilus of Antioch clearly found numerous sources valuable for the construction of his apologetic Ad Autolycum, drawing upon numerous Greek, Jewish, and Christian sources in this writing. Especially important for his conception of scripture was the doctrine of the Logos, formed in Hellenistic Judaism and applied by Justin Martyr to Christian apologetics, but in Theophilus developed most clearly from the Gospel of John. This doctrine allowed Theophilus to locate writings inspired by the Logos, whether they were composed by the Sibyl, Moses, Paul, or someone else. The Logos is that with whom Greek philosophy must accord, that who inspired the prophets of Israel, and he who continues to serve God’s salvific nomos.[i] In this sense, Theophilus did not explicitly locate the Logos with any one “person,” but instead focused on the literary personification and work of the Logos, an endeavor with which those seeking God had to bring themselves into accordance. This is an admittedly Jewish way of thinking, leading Grant to posit that Theophilus’ Jewish-Christian perspective ultimately stands behind the later excesses of Antiochene exegetical theology.[ii] Continue reading