Oct 282013
 

claudius_etal3Polycrates of Ephesus gives us a description of John:

and there was also John, who rested upon the breast of the Lord, who became a priest who wore the plate, both martyr and teacher; he sleeps in Ephesus.

ετι δε και Ιωαννης, ο επι το στηθος του κυριου αναπεσων, ος εγενηθη ιυρευς το πεταλον πεφορεκως και μαρτυς και διδασκαλος, ουτος εν Εφεσω κεκοιμηται. (from Ben Smith’s Text Excavation)

Many have taken το πεταλον as a reference to the “plate of pure gold” of the high priest’s Tzitz, which in the Septuagint of Exodus 28:36 is translated into Greek as πέταλον (leaf) χρυσοῦν (of gold) καθαρὸν (pure).

And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and engrave upon it, like the engravings of a signet: HOLY TO THE LORD.

καὶ ποιήσεις πέταλον χρυσοῦν καθαρὸν καὶ ἐκτυπώσεις ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτύπωμα σφραγῖδος ἁγίασμα κυρίου

The high priest was to wear it when entering the holy of holies.

This is a possible understanding of the Greek, but there is another image that would come to the mind of hearers among his audience in second century Roman Asia Minor. That image is the dress of Greek priests at the time. When this fact is compared against what we know about John otherwise, which would not suggest his participation in a Greek cult, the description is seen to suit a person who held the distinction of being both a Jewish priest by birth and a Greek elder by rank.

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Oct 272013
 

The epistle 1 Clement has several features that show up on a close reading:

  • Disjointed indications of date, with different parts suggesting conclusions both before and after the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • Difficult and long perambulation to the letter.
  • Doxologies punctuating the letter abruptly.
  • Digressive material that interrupts the flow of the argument.
  • Doctrinal concerns of Judaism addressed in a Jewish way.
  • Defense of the resurrection from nature and the phoenix.
  • Divergent aims and vocabulary at the start and finish absent in the middle.

And so to the problems that face us, I wish to throw my own hypothesis into the ring. I’ve placed my reconstruction below today, and I welcome comments. I will gather my thoughts about the various arguments surrounding the epistle in a later post on another day, hopefully informed further by any helpful comments. Continue reading »

Oct 182013
 

deteringA conversation between Hermann Detering and one of his critics has been rediscovered and arranged here. It bears the title, added at a later date, “A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems Regarding Paul,” which must be understood as a dispute arising over the authenticity of the letters attributed to the apostle Paul.

In the middle of a discussion between Detering and one of his students regarding the references to the letters of Paul in 1 Clement and the epistles of Ignatius, the critic steps forward and declaims, “I can’t help but think that all of these points have long ago been hashed out by authorities of the past such as Harnack, Lightfoot, and Zahn. I would want to find these authors in English translation and read their arguments as well before coming to a decision on the authenticity of 1 Clement and the seven Ignatians.”

Noticing the earnestness displayed by his critic, Detering responds, “For a long time I was thinking like you. But when I wrote my dissertation I found that the arguments used by Harnack and Zahn defending the authenticity of 1Clem and Ign are rather poor and superficial. So if you read these authors you should also read the original texts of F.C. Baur, Van Manen, A.D. Loman or G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga etc. to get an impression of the power of their arguments.”

And Detering adds a cautionary statement, “Generally I think that any kind of scholasticism is dangerous. At least it is better to trust our own eyes and our own rationality than the results of our ‘glorious fathers’.” 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 »

Oct 022013
 

Church-Fathers-2Well I got sour news for you, Jack.

It ain’t that easy.

For instance, are you willing to make the commitment to wakin’ up at the crack a’ noon for 7 or 8 readings of the Didache at a time, in a row?

How about are you ready to make the commitment to perfect knowledge of Greek, Latin, and Syriac—polyglot style—bristling on your tongue?

How about are you willing to make the commitment to wakin’ up and going, okay, study time, which church father am I gonna read? (Can’t decide! Can’t decide! Brain aneurysm!)

Today Triablogue and Roger Pearse have asked the question: how do I get into reading the church fathers, both in terms of primary and secondary reading? They come to some very different answers, and I have a third perspective…
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