Apr 102014

Papyrus Fragment Gospel of  Jesus' Wife[Disclaimer Added: It’s a modern forgery.]

Karen King has finally gotten research on the fragment known as the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” published in the Harvard Theological Review (thank goodness too, as there were some concerns over whether the research would get space in a proper venue like this). As indicated, they’d just been waiting for the results to come back from the physical tests of the papyrus fragment. These physical tests include a comparison of the ink with other inks from antiquity and a carbon dating test performed on the papyrus itself.

These tests don’t vindicate those who had been beating the drums for “forgery” from the beginning. On the other hand, they don’t take all the ambiguity out of the matter either, and there will continue to be those who support a hypothesis of modern forgery. The good news is that a healthy debate can occur, taking into consideration all of the most salient data, now that the physical evidence has been examined.

You can check out the links below or join the discussion on the Early Writings forum. And now, the reaction from the blogosphere… Continue reading »

Dec 302013

ImprovedI’ve been busy extending the timeline of the Early Christian Writings website down to the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It’s now at a milestone, as the site has gone from having 153 entries to having 200 entries, including several noteworthy writers such as Cyprian and Eusebius.

I still have 26 Nag Hammadi Library texts to add to the site (the rest of the NHL codices) and a few odds and ends (some fragments and quotations that had been overlooked or which have been discovered since 2001). I expect to put some of the archaeological data from the Physical Evidence of Early Christianity post on the website. I also need to improve the existing pages and fill in the “At a Glance” information boxes with good data. After that, who knows what the future might bring?

Here’s the 47 new additions to the website. 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.

Continue reading »

Oct 122013

ichthusFor some reason, I’ve never seen a simple table of some christological titles as presented in the early Christian writings, even though it would be very handy to have. So I made my own.

I started out including fragmentary and quoted writings, but midway through I decided to put them in a separate table (incomplete). Both the entries and the blanks in the table are meaningful, but those blanks are much less meaningful with a short, fragmentary text. Some texts with substantial fragments, such as the Gospel of Peter, are shown.

I certainly wouldn’t mind if anybody would like to mention some of my errors of omission and other mistakes. Please do. I would be very happy to improve the table.

Further work to be done could be to add more christological titles, to design different arrangements or charts, to note any difficulties of ambiguous interpretation, to integrate data about presumed dates of authorship, to extend this table to the entire Nag Hammadi Library (not just the texts that are part of the Early Christian Writings site), and of course to add the rest of the fragmentary and quoted writings.

Still, I’d like to release this first draft now, below. Continue reading »

Sep 252013

I just got through a first read of Hedrick and Mirecki’s Gospel of the Savior: A New Ancient Gospel. The first thing that strikes me is a comparison between the reception of the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of the Savior, the two new ancient gospel texts published recently. There was a little hive of publishing activity regarding the Gospel of Judas, but almost nothing regarding the Gospel of the Savior has come out in book form since it was first released.

I attribute this to the sensationalism of the initial publication of the Gospel of Judas but also, secondly, to the very fragmentary form of the Gospel of the Savior. You can’t easily just sit down with the latter in translation and muse about it. Everywhere you must first wrestle with the difficult questions of what might be in those lacunae, the missing parts of the text that lie beyond, in every direction, that which we actually can read. Continue reading »