Welcome to ongoing discussions about the “Diversity of Early Christianity” which will take place on this blog in connection with a graduate course on the New Testament Apocrypha and “Gnostic” writings (course outline here). (The course is on Wednesday evenings, by the way).
Although my brief blog entries on this topic will arise from what we are learning in the class, I will consciously write with both students and other regular or occasional readers of this blog in mind. Writing for this diverse audience will be a task well worth undertaking, I believe. Always feel free to post your questions or comments! (In order to leave comments, you will need to sign up with blogger, which is easy. Why not do it now by clicking on “comment” at the end of this entry. You can always just say “hello” on the initial sign up to make sure it works). I may also bring your comments or questions to the fore in subsequent blog entries (with the permission of the students in question, of course).
Today we will begin to get a general sense of the difficulties in approaching the various forms of early Christianity as well as the various theories, both ancient and scholarly, which have arisen to deal with issues of “orthodoxy” and “heresy” (including those of Eusebius, Baur, and Bauer as I discussed here). How to approach this topic from an historical viewpoint and what categories are most or least useful will be ongoing occupations as we read through writings in the early Christian Apocrypha (literally “hidden writings”). Bart Ehrman’s work on Lost Christianities will get us thinking early on and we will have an initial discussion of the entire work next week.
Throughout the course, we will focus our attention on two main things:
- We will be concerned with the types or genres of literature produced by Christians and in assessing the common characteristics of these genres, placing our discussion within the Jewish and Greco-Roman literary contexts.
- We will focus our attention on discussing and comparing the various forms of Christian belief and practice reflected in the writings.
I have already made several brief posts on the New Testament Apocrypha in the past few weeks as I was preparing for the course. You can read the earlier posts in the Apocrypha series by clicking here (the present entry is 1a).
Also feel free to browse some of the other entries here which deal with social and religious life in the ancient Mediterranean, as well as the cultural history of Christianity (the reformations of the early modern era are another ongoing topic this term in connection with another course).