Nov 252013

wikipedia college creditNot just another Wikipedia rant: it’s worth thinking a little about what what makes the world’s largest encyclopedia tick, what’s different about academically-oriented writing, what the relative strengths of the two are, and why it matters.

In the words of Dr. House, “everybody lies.” When it comes to research, everybody has a bias.

Like the bacteria living in your stomach, some of them are the kind that are benign. These dispositions actually motivate you to digest information thoroughly, exercise critical thinking, and build a product of research that represents the subject matter faithfully and reflects on it intelligently. Others are less helpful and are the kind to consider as possible sources of error.

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Nov 242013

identitycrisis copy_860I’ve been sitting on the idea presented in this post for a couple weeks. As an idea, it sets off red flags. It’s comparing a text known only from a few fragments to another text known only from a few fragments, which both reduces the amount of potential evidence and increases the amount of room for speculation. It’s positing an identity between two given names of writers, writers that are widely known in some circles (they are both in presentations of church history aimed at a secondary school level) and conflating them, which seems a bit pat.

Frankly, I didn’t like these red flags, and that’s why I felt it necessary to mull it over a bit before offering it to others for consideration. My own understanding of the evidence has not changed, so I’m giving the idea up for scrutiny that others might help me change it if I have erred.

The idea arises from the background material presented in earlier posts:

Putting Papias in Order

Chasing Hegesippus

The second post, about Hegesippus, concludes that the author’s name was unknown (having been assumed to be Josephus and then corrupted to be Hegesippus), that the author may have been known solely from his fifth book (from which the title was ascribed), and that the author wrote during the reign of Antoninus and specifically between 138 and 148 AD. The conclusions reached when “Chasing Hegesippus” lead to the question of the author’s identity. Continue reading »

Nov 192013

stylo_logo.pngI was wandering around the Internet when suddenly an interesting approach to gender and (assumptions regarding) writing style appeared:

I have to admit that I thought it was a girl too based on the exaggeration and wording…”as if… universe.” Even the introducer sounded like a female because based on my original assumption that the submitter was a girl, I assumed that a man wouldn’t say, “smack some sense into”. Gosh! I had no idea that make such wild subconscious assumptions! actually, thank you for pointing that out. And I agree with the other person, we need a gender neutral pronoun. I usually employ ‘they’ even in the singular sometimes.

Signed “Kim,” a wonderfully ambiguous name that lets us speculate about the author’s own gender.

Sure enough, I decided to google “smack some sense into” and the result of this informal survey is that the first two pages are mostly from female authors. (No, not entirely. No, this is not the main point here; keep reading.) Continue reading »

Nov 132013

saint_polycarpIt doesn’t receive much direct investigation, but given how little actually survives from the second century of early Christianity, any text with a claim to such antiquity should receive attention, including the Martyrdom of Polycarp.

Godfrey Gets Me Wondering…

Recently Neil Godfrey offered a couple arguments for a third or fourth century context to the famous Martyrdom of Polycarp (also called the Letter of the Smyrnaeans). They are worth considering. One of them:

Quintus [in the text of the Martyrdom of Polycarp] was one who rushed to martyrdom. He believed Christians should actively seek out martyrdom. … It may be significant, too, that Quintus is singled out as a Phyrgian. It was in Phrygia that the anarchic Montanist movement began from around 168 CE. The Montanists were notorious for their wild prophetic utterances and zealous seeking of martyrdom.

The problem of suicidal volunteering for martyrdom was a phenomenon of the late second and third centuries. Polycarp was supposed to have been martyred 155 CE. Continue reading »

Nov 122013

The-Seven-Ecumenical-Councils1There is a long history of looking back to the New Testament and other writings of the era for information on leadership positions and their titles. The Reformation took this study up in earnest when attempting to discover the proper hierarchy for the contemporary church. The results have been various. Variety is indeed what comes through in the sources. This table of leadership roles (more properly, of the terms given to them) in the early Christian writings has been compiled in an attempt to capture a sense of this variety.

I have already released A Table of Christological Titles and also A Table of Self-Identifications. These looked at some ways of referring to Jesus, some ways in which early Christian writers distinguished their group from other people, and where these are attested.

This table has a similar purpose. It is a way into the sources. It is also a way to organize a study of the sources so that the student can trace the development of an idea or relate it to other ideas also found in the same texts. Because of the layer of interpretation that takes place in making a table like this one, as well as the possibility of error, I encourage reference back to the sources if there is any question of how a particular entry in the table relates to the texts themselves. Continue reading »

Nov 092013

ChristianSymbolsWhich texts refer to Catholic or Gnostics, to Christians or to Nazarenes? Which texts mention the Gospel, Knowledge, or Belief? Where do we find Synagogues and Churches mentioned? Discussion of the way, of the spiritual, or of the kingdom? Who refers to insiders as brothers, holy ones, or chosen?

Earlier I produced A Table of Christological Titles in Early Christian Writings. This table concerns the kind of references found in these texts to refer to insiders and their distinguishing characteristics. Sometimes I’ve had to note substantial differences in the reference such as, for example, when a term is mentioned in a negative context. Several of the entries involve a layer of interpretation instead of a simple word search, so please compare always against the original texts for an exact sense of what this table is supposed to represent.

The New Testament results were obtained with a search on the Greek lemma in the Bibleworks program. The other results came from a search for the English equivalent or synonyms in English translation. One desideratum, of course, is to found all the results on an original language footing. I may be able to do this when I revisit particular columns for closer examination.

As before, I welcome corrections of my errors quite eagerly, as I know there are mistakes in the table.

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Nov 072013

M30fd1eb86edf375c8ec8f32307b782bdThere are good presentations about Hegesippus online already, particularly that of Ben C. Smith’s Text Excavation. I’d like, however, to present the possibility that Clement of Alexandria or Origen preserve fragments of Hegesippus alongside those fragments that are more commonly attributed to him.

There is at least one known case of the names “Josephus” and “Hegesippus” being confused, in the direction traveling from Josephus to Hegesippus. That is the text known to be from “Pseudo-Hegesippus,” a Latin text also known as “On the Ruin of the City of Jerusalem” that recycles much material from Josephus’ Jewish Wars, which some scribes have attributed to a “Hegesippus.”

This should at least alert us to the possibility of the names being confused at times. For patristic references to Josephus, if they don’t cite the particular context or book or work of Josephus and don’t mention material that is otherwise attested in the manuscripts of Josephus, we should be ready to consider the possibility that the person being called Josephus is in fact another author. One of the most likely authors to be confused with Josephus is someone called Hegesippus. Continue reading »

Nov 052013

pub-475x350One day in 90 AD, Justus of Tiberias was sitting at his favorite tavern in the city of Rome, minding his own business, when in walks his sworn enemy Joseph.

Smirking, Joseph asks, “Hey, Justus, how’s it going for you?”

Justus shoots back, “What do you expect? Lousy.”

Joseph taunts, “Sucks to be on the losing side? You should have seen the writing on the wall, bud.”

But Justus sighs, “No, that’s not it. That’s not it at all. It’s book sales! My book’s been out for months, and I’ve only been able to get you, my mom, and the imperial librarian to make copies of it.”

Joseph says, “Actually, come to think of it, my own books haven’t been selling all too well either. I mean, not as bad as yours have, but still, not as well as I’d like.” Continue reading »

Nov 052013

papias… yet another collection of the fragments of Papias, indebted to Chronicon and Text Excavation and Hypotyposeis and, of course, the giants whose shoulders they stand on. The translations are copied from T.C. Schmidt’s Chronicon page and Ben C. Smith’s Text Excavation page except where otherwise indicated; those translations that are under copyright are presented here under the fair use doctrine. Please refer to these sources for more information about the quotes, their translations, and some of the original language texts.

The purpose of this list is that a different arrangement, by book and subject matter in Papias, could help me study the fragments of Papias better. I hope it helps others also. I have tried to err on the side of caution when attributing references to a certain book in Papias, going by the indications in the writers who quote Papias instead of devising a hypothesis about the scheme of the author’s work, which must be derived from such data.

I’ve made an attempt at being inclusive regarding hypothetical and even dubious claims of fragments belonging to Papias, which are presented for the reader to test for themselves and keep what is good.

See also the Early Christian Writings page on Papias.

Continue reading »

Nov 042013

albert_einsteinWhen we come to the second book of Irenaeus, where he argues from tradition and the Gospel of John that Christ “did not then wont much of being fifty years old,” the modern reader generally has one of two base reactions. On the one hand, the reader that does not think much of the patristic writers generally will harbor a suspicion regarding Irenaeus that he is a man of small mind, much as Eusebius describes Papias owing to the latter’s chiliast opinion of a 1000-year paradise on earth (an opinion shared by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Victorinus of Pettau). On the other, the one that exalts the Church Fathers will find a way to harmonize Irenaeus with the dominant post-Nicene church tradition and interpretation of the New Testament, whether that is by misunderstanding or marginalizing the author. One finds a hard time getting through the impasse created by the polemicist who giggles and the apologist who gags Irenaeus. Still it is the only genuine option open to us as critics that we steer clear of the gaping errors on both sides here and press on to reach an understanding of Irenaeus in his historical context.

I’ve used the picture of Einstein simply because the photo is a modern representation of a mature, noble “master” of a man, the very kind of picture of Jesus that Irenaeus held. We can understand the argument of Irenaeus more clearly by looking at similar church tradition and by comparing it with knowledge about the stages of life current in the era. Continue reading »

Nov 022013

mapOfGalileeVespJosephus writes:

There was one Judas, a Galilean, of a city whose name was Gamala, … (Antiquities 18.4)

Again, Josephus:

Judas the Galilean was the author of the fourth branch of Jewish philosophy. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. (Antiquities 18.23)

Josephus calls it a fourth branch that arose later than the sects of Sadducees, Essenes, and Pharisees. Some have noted that the appearance of self-identified “Zealots” occurs during the first Jewish revolt, indicating that the Zealots may have formed their identity in the 60s AD in the events leading up to the revolt, though Josephus cites prior rebels as founders of their movement.

The author of Acts mentions this Galilean:

Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. (Acts 5:36-37)

The references in Josephus and Acts do not prove the connection, but they certainly raise the question whether the consistent reference to “Judas the Galilean” may have been taken by others to denote his cause as “Galilean,” even if only by misunderstanding. The question then is whether the term Galilean ever functioned as another name for Zealot, even if it does not so function in Josephus or the New Testament. Continue reading »