Discussion Notes for Christian Origins (HUMA 3421 / 3422), version A – Ethnicity and Diaspora

Contents

  • HUMA 3421: Pauline Communities and Issues of Ethnicity (from ca. 40-65 CE)
  • HUMA 3422: Jesus Adherents as Minorities in the Diaspora (c. 65-135 CE)

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HUMA 3421

Introduction to Paul, Pauline Communities and Issues of Ethnicity

1. Scholarly approaches to the study of ancient society and early Jesus adherents and the problem of categories (e.g. “religion” and “ethnicity”)

  • Academic approaches to the study of ancient Judeans (Jews) and early Jesus adherents (e.g. Religious Studies and historical approaches) – what we are not doing in this course (e.g. theology)
  • Difficulties with the category of “religion” in the study of ancient society (e.g. Nongbri 2013): Modern compartmentalization of human activity into politics, religion, economics, etc
  • Usefullness of the category of “ethnicity” for making sense of Paul and his communities (e.g. Johnson Hodge 2007)
    • Our experiment: Focus on issues of ethnicity as a new angle on understanding the earliest evidence for followers of Jesus, both Paul and those he addresses in his letters

2.  Paul, his “gentile” audience, and ethnic discourses

  • Introducing Paul and his communities
    • A movement devoted to the Israelite or Judean god makes its way into a non-Judean world – the Judean Paul as key transition figure
    • Paul’s letters as real letters addressed to real people (in Galatia, Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, etc) – overview and nature of our evidence
    • Non-Judeans as outsiders or insiders?
      • Paul’s Judean ethnic discourse: Judean language of us (Judeans) and them (“gentiles” / “peoples”) –  Peoples as failures (“sinners”)
      • Paul’s aim of including gentiles in a movement devoted to the Israelite / Judean god
        • Paul’s notion that god or Jesus called him for a mission – Paul’s teaching (e.g. 1 Thess 1)
        • Controversies surrounding Paul’s aim and announcement (“gospel”): Conflicts of Jerusalem leadership and others / circumcision debate (e.g. Galatians 1-2)
  • Paul’s ethnic categories
    • Paul’s ethnic self-identifications: Discussion of “autobiographical” passages (link)
    • Paul on other “peoples” /  “gentiles” (ethnē)

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Positioning Judeans and a Judean movement in a Greco-Roman context – Ethnicity, ancestral customs, and foreign “superstitions”

1. Defining ethnicity and ethnic identification: Discussion of reading in Harland

  • Social scientific approaches to ethnicity and identification (e.g. Howard 2000, Sanders 2007)
  • Constructed, ascriptive and fluid nature of ethnicity, not primordial or static (as often portrayed by participants or members).  Contrast nineteenth century notions of “race”.
  • Identification and belonging based on insiders’ and/or outsiders’ notions of:
    • (1) shared blood, kinship, or ancestry, whether fictive or otherwise
    • (2) shared cultural customs and symbols for interpreting and explaining life in the world (cf. Clifford Geertz within cultural anthropology)
    • (3) common sense of attachment to a real or imagined homeland
  • Simultaneous importance and interplay between (1) insiders’ self-understandings and (2) outsiders’ categorizations or stereotypes (e.g. Jenkins 1994)
    • Stereotypes about other peoples and the formation of ethnic hierarchies (hegemonic and otherwise)

2. Cultural life and ethnicity in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds

  • Diversity of peoples and cultures in the ancient Mediterranean: Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Syrians / Phoenicians, Egyptians, etc.
    • “Ancestral customs” / culture and the place of gods / goddesses
    • Israelite and Judean culture in context — overlaps (e.g. honouring the god, temple and sacrifice) and distinctions (e.g. “monotheism,” scriptures)
  • Hegemonic ethnic groups in our period:  Hellenistic (from Alexander on) and then Roman (from Augustus on) powers
  • Cultural encounters and acculturation
    • Hellenistic and Roman cultures in interaction with subject peoples (e.g. the “Hellenization” of Judean society and culture)
    • Diasporas. migration, and interactions (e.g. of the Judean diaspora)

3. Greek and Roman perceptions and stereotypes about Israelites or Judeans and their ancestral customs

  • Outsider’s perceptions and ethnic identification
  • Ethnography in the Greco-Roman context
  • Tacitus on the Judeans (discussion)
  • Tacitus and Pliny on a Judean movement / Jesus adherents (discussion)

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Contemporary Judeans and other peoples 1 – Philo and Ethnic Hierarchies

1. Philo of Alexandria’s social and cultural context

  • Introduction to the Judean diaspora (photos and AGRW inscriptions)
    • Judeans in Egypt
  • Philo’s social status and family
    • Alexander his brother and Tiberius Julius Alexander his nephew)
  • Philo’s education – Judean scripture and Hellenistic philosophy
  • Ethnic tensions in Alexandria between Egyptians, Greeks, and Judeans under Roman rule (context of Philo’s old age)
    • Clashes between Greek Alexandrians and Judean Alexandrians in 38-41 CE: Discussion of events outlined in Philo’s Against Flaccus
    • Philo’s role in the embassy to Gaius Caligula

2. Philo, stereotypes of Egyptians and ethnic hierarchies:  Discussion of hegemonic and other hierarchies (Harland article)

  • Judean responses to hegemonic categorizations and hierarchies
  • Judean self-identification and claims of superiority
  • Judean categorizations of other ethnic peoples

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Contemporary Judeans and other peoples 2 – Josephos

1. Josephus of Jerusalem’s social and cultural context

  • Josephus’ social status and family
  • Josephus’ life, education and writings
    • Josephus, the Judean war, and Josephus’ time in Rome
    • Judean War, Antiquities, Life, Against Apion

2. Josephus, Judean Ethnicity, and Ethnic Relations:  Discussion of Against Apion and Esler article

  • Esler on the six characteristics of ethnicity
  • Against Apion
    • Part 1: Superiority of “barbarian” methods of documentation, inferiority of Greek — Judeans count
    • Part 2: Refuting stereotypes (by Apion and others) regarding the inferiority of Judeans
      • Judean / Egyptian rivalries again
    • Part 3: Affirming the superiority of Judeans / Israelites and their ancestral customs

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Greeks and Macedonians join a Judean movement – First Thessalonians

1. Thessalonica and Paul’s relations with Jesus adherents there

  • The situation at Thessalonica and Paul’s response
    • Identifying Paul’s audience
      • Ethnicity
      • Social-economic status
        • Paul’s identification with his audience: Paul’s occupation as a handworker and its significance
      • History of Paul’s relations with them: Paul’s initial teaching to non-Judeans (“gentiles”)
    • Issues of concern among Jesus-followers:
      • Afflictions: Social harassment
      • Death of fellow members: Apocalyptic outlook
    • Paul’s Response: Comforting converts faced with affliction or social dislocation:
      • The tone of 1 Thess: “…like a nurse…”; familial language
      • Paul as example
      • Relations with outsiders (countering tensions)
      • Paul’s apocalyptic world-view and Christ’s “coming” (parousia): “…concerning those who are asleep…”

3.  Some questions to guide discussion:

  • What evidence is there in this letter regarding Paul’s interactions with those at Thessalonica in the past? Is his relationship with them positive or negative? What has occured before the writing of this letter?
  • What did Paul teach these people when he was with them?
  • What is the ethnicity of the people who are addressed? Are they Judeans or non-Judeans (Greeks would be an option, since Thessalonica would be populated mainly by Greeks)? What evidence would you point to in the letter regarding possible ethnic identifications?
  • What Judean perspectives or stereotypes about non-Judeans does Paul the Judean hold? What importance do sexual practices play in connection with ethnicity and ethnic stereotypes?

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Paul’s Judean stereotypes regarding non-Judeans or Greeks: Sexual perversion and idolatry

1.  Background:  Foreign peoples and their customs (and avoidance of them) in Israelite and Judean culture

  • Hebrew Bible: Sexual language for involvement in foreign practices (of the Canaanites)
  • Canaanites and the new Canaanites:  Discussion of Wisdom of Solomon 12-14 (link; first century BCE)

2. Judean stereotypes regarding other ethnic groups (“gentiles” = “peoples”): Sexually perverted Greeks

  • The paraenetic section (1 Thess 4:1-12): Paul’s instructions and exhortations
  • Discussion of Knust article in relation to 1 Thess 4, 1 Corinthians 5-7 and Romans 1

3. Discussion of Galatians 1:1-2:16 on interactions between Judeans and Gentiles (avoidance and contact) and Paul’s perspectives (prelude to next week)

  • Figuring out a conundrum: Judean stereotypes of the peoples and Paul’s mission to bring the Israelite god to the “sinful peoples”

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Debates concerning Judean ancestral customs: Paul, the “Judaizers” and the Galatians

1. Galatia and the history of Paul’s activity in relation to the situation

  • Northern (ethnic) Galatia or Southern (Phrygian) Galatia?
    • Paul’s journeys in Southern Galatia according to Acts (13:13-14:20; 16:1-6; Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Derbe)
  • The Jerusalem meeting (Gal. 2:1-10; Acts 15:1-35), Judean Jesus-followers and Paul’s collection (see Gal. 2:10; 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8-9; Rom 15:23-32)

3. The situation and the response with attention to ethnicity

  • Situation:
    • Ethnic identity of Jesus-followers (cf. 4:8)
    • Opponents: The “circumcision party” and Judaizers with a “different gospel”
      • Rationale of the opponents: Circumcision, proselytes and God-fearers in Judean culture
      • The primary issue is circumcision as an entrance requirement into the community of God and sign of favoured status (not salvation after death through works)
  • Response:
    • Paul’s tone: “O foolish Galatians!”
    • Paul’s methods: Hellenistic rhetoric; Judean biblical interpretation
    • Paul, the Law and the peoples (Gentiles): Circumcision is not an entrance requirement
      • Paul’s defence of his circumcision-free gospel
      • The issue of the inclusion of the peoples (Gentiles) in the people of God (the mission to the peoples) as the guiding principle in Paul’s view
    • God’s primary covenant-promise to Abraham (Gen 15):  The blessing of Abraham – faith (not circumcision = “works of law”) as the true sign of being sons of Abraham
      and members of God’s community
    • The secondary covenant, circumcision (Gen 17) and the Law at Mount Sinai: “the law was our custodian until Christ came”
      • Allegorical interpretation of scripture: Sarah and Hagar

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Ethnic tension and interaction at Rome: Judeans, Greeks and “God’s people”

1. The city of Rome, capital of the empire

2. The situation at Rome that led Paul to write his letter

  • Traditional views: Romans as a summary of Paul’s theology
  • New view: Romans as a response to a concrete situation

a) Situation among Judeans at Rome

  • Synagogues (about 10-15 attested, some based on district, others on geographical links)
  • Origins of earliest groups of Jesus-followers within Judean gatherings (e.g. Prisca and Aquila)
  • Scholarly theories, including the issue of Roman authorities’ actions or expulsions (see Suetonius and Acts 18:2; Dio Cassius on restriction of meetings; collegia):
    • Wolfgang Wiefel’s thesis: Return of expelled Judeans to predominantly Greek groups of Jesus-followers after expulsion relating to conflicts over “Christ” (of 49
      CE, or 47-50 CE)
    • Philip Esler’s proposal: Whether expulsion or not, still ethnic conflict

b) Situation within groups of Jesus adherents

  • Identity of Paul’s addressees and the house churches at Rome (Romans 16)
    • 26 identified individuals: 7 probably Judeans, Latin names, Greek names
    • Primary addressees as Greeks
  • Divisions and tensions along ethnic lines (Greeks vs. Judeans) as the primary issue
    • Discussion: Greeks (“the strong”) feeling superior to Judeans (“the weak”): Case of the food and days in chapters 14-15 (contrast situation at Galatia)

3. Paul’s response

  • Paul’s purposes in writing (Going west, collection for Jerusalem, address ethnic conflict)
  • Rhetoric and the diatribe (imaginary opponents and hypothetical objections)
  • Paul, the Law and second-Temple Judean culture (again!?)
  • Paul’s response to the divisions and claims of superiority: “To the Judean first and also to the Greek” – “God shows no partiality”

A) Greeks and Judeans equally failures and in need of reconciliation with the Israelite god (ch. 1-8)

  • The other peoples (Greeks) are wicked and guilty: Idolatry and sexual immorality (1-2:16)
  • Judeans also under the power of sin (2:17-3:20)
    •  “What is the value of circumcision?  Much in every way.” (3:1)
    •  “Are we Judeans any better off?  No, not at all.” (3:9)
    • “For there is no distinction”: Made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, not by law (3:21-31)
    • Abraham as the “father of us all”, both Judeans and the other peoples (4)
    • Christ as the second Adam in Paul’s typological thinking (5)
    • Dead to sin (6): Baptism in Paul’s view and the context of this ritual (also see 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27-28)
  • Sin as a power (7)
  • Flesh and spirit: Children of God (8)

B) If Judeans and the peoples have access to reconciliation with the Israelite god, what is the place of Israel in the plan (ch. 9-11)

  •   The remnant and Israel’s stumble (9)
  •   “Has God rejected his people? By no means!” (11)
  •   Israel stumbles but does not fall: “all Israel will be saved”
    •   Israel’s stumble is the peoples’ gain
      •   The olive tree analogy: “do not become proud” (11:20)
      •   Mercy: “all Israel will be saved” (11:26)

C) Parenesis and moral exhortation (12-13)

  • “I bid everyone . . . not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” (12:3)
  • “Be subject to the governing authorities” (13:1): Paul’s civic advice in context
  • Fulfill the law (13:8-10)

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HUMA 3422

Introduction

1. Overview of course

  • Concept of diaspora experience illustrated through Epistle to Diognetos (distributed)

2. Our academic approach to Christian origins

  • Religious Studies approaches to human culture
  • Diaspora theory as an angle

3.  Evaluating a Judean movement (sometimes) in a Greek and Roman context

  • Judean origins, dissemination into a Greco-Roman context, and the debate about the Jesus movement’s relation to its Judean origins
    • Diversity of Judean culture in the second temple era despite common denominators
      • Hellenistic culture in the wake of Alexander and various levels of acculturation among various peoples, including Israelites
    • Israelite and Judean diasporas (likewise diverse)
      • Devotion to the Israelite or Judean god among Greeks and others in the Mediterranean context (e.g. “god-fearers”)
    • Diversity in devotion to the Israelite god alongside the figure of Jesus
      • Example of Paul and his communities
    • The “parting of the ways” debate
  • Hypotheses of the course:
    • Literature produced by Jesus adherents can be firmly placed within Israelite / Judean, Greek, and Roman culture (like most other literature produced by Judeans)
    • Great diversity among those who adopted Jesus within their worldview despite common attention to the figure of Jesus
    • We can better understand many dimensions of Christian origins in terms of Israelite or Judean diaspora experiences and concerns (Kotrosits book as a guide to this)
      • Diaspora studies and theory: discussion of distributed reading

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Problematizing “Christian identity” – Ignatius’ letters

1. Christian identity / Judean diaspora literature — Discussion of Kotrosits’ approach and arguments (intro, chs. 1-2)

2. Ancient Greek letters and letters by Jesus adherents

  • Purposes and components of a typical Hellenistic letter
  • Letters of Paul and Ignatius as instances of the Hellenistic letter: Opening (with prayer), body, conclusion (with greetings etc)

3. Ignatius letters as a window into Ignatius and his recipients

  • Ignatius’ background and situation
    • Overseer (bishop) of Jesus adherents at Antioch; unclear reason for arrest; hope of martyrdom (Romans 4; Philadelphians 10)
  • Situation in the Asian Jesus assemblies: Scholarly debates on opponents (one or two groups?)
    • “Docetics” (see Ephesians chs. 7-8; Magnesians 11; Trallians 9-10; Smyrnians 1-2, 5,
      7-8 [eucharist])

      • Comparing those who deny the flesh in John’s epistles
    • “Judaizers” (see Magn. 8-10; Phil. 6 [Gentiles])
      • Comparing the Judean “myths” in the Pastoral epistles
    • Divided household assemblies: Lack of communion
  • Ignatius’ response: Leadership structure as monarchy
    • Unity under the bishop (cf. Eph. 4; Trall. 2; Smyrn. 8)
    • Defining “proper” belief: The move toward creeds
    • Common meetings/communion (Eph. 5.3; 20.2; Magn. 4; Phil. 4; Smyrn. 7-8)

4.  Noting diversity in forms of Jesus adherence

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First Peter: The Nature of Persecution and Relations with Outsiders

1. Letters to the Dispersion in Israelite or Judean contexts

  • E.g. Jeremiah 29:4-23; 2 Baruch 78-87; Epistle of James
  • 1 Peter background and context:
    • Asia Minor as a hub of Jesus groups (cf. Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, Pastoral Epistles, John’s Apocalypse, Johannine epistles, 1 Peter)
    • Authorship (pseudonymous) and date (late first century)
      • Outline of structure: 1:1-2:10:  Hope through suffering: Spiritual household and holy priesthood; 2:11-3:7:  Household code; 3:8-4:19:  Suffering for righteousness, like Christ; 5:1-14:    Assembly leadership and closing

2. First Peter, diaspora discourse and the situation of Jesus adherents

  • Key discussion questions:
    • How can we describe the situation of the addressees (e.g. “aliens and exiles”) ?  What scholarly debates are there about this (e.g. Balch, Elliott, Kotrosits)?
    • What is the nature of the “suffering” or other types of negative treatment faced by addressees of this letter (according to the author)?  What are the apparent causes of this treatment? How does this relate to “persecution” of Jesus adherents in the Pliny correspondence and in the early period before 250 CE?  (See, e.g., 1 Peter 1:14-18; 2:11; 3:9, 13-17; 4:3-4, 12-19; 5:9)
    • How does the author express belonging in terms of Judean culture and diaspora experience (e.g. 1:1-2:10)?  What importance do household and other society structures have for this author’s notion of belonging among Jesus adherents (e.g. 2:11-3:7)?  What are the author’s family values and what cultural contexts do these reflect?

3.  Noting diversity in forms of Jesus adherence

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Acts of the Apostles: Dispersion and the Dissemination of a Judean Movement

1. Introductory and genre issues: Luke-Acts as ancient historiography with novelistic features

  • Luke-Acts as a 2-volume work, dating ca. 80-90 CE
  • Anonymous author: Well-educated Greek-speaking Judean or Judaizing Greek; “We” passages (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16)
  • Luke-Acts as ancient historiography: 1) Preface; 2) Speeches; 3) Exciting material (cf. novels); 4) Apologetic history (compare Josephus)
  • Key themes:
    • 1) Overcoming conflict and unity of the movement (e.g. of Peter / Paul)
    • 2) Legitimization and apologetic purposes: a) “Not in a corner” — the Jesus movement not secretive; b) Judean roots of following Jesus and, therefore, ancient character and legitimacy
  • Structure:
    • Part 1 – Success in Jerusalem under Peter (chs. 1-8); Part 2 – Dissemination beyond Jerusalem (chs. 9-20); Part 3 – Paul’s arrest and trials: “proclaiming the kingdom of God” in Rome (chs. 21-28)

2. Acts on diaspora setting and dissemination of the Jesus movement

  • Key discussion questions:
    • How does this author deal with conflicts among Judeans and among Jesus adherents in his narrative?  How important is the question of Greeks / non-Judeans’ involvement in this Judean movement (e.g. “god-fearers”)?  How are Peter and Paul characterized in the narrative (and how might this relate to Galatians 2:7-14)?
    • In what ways do Judean and diaspora culture frame this account of the Jesus movements? What importance does the author attach to Judean things?  What are this author’s views regarding Judeans and Judean ancestral customs, including the Judean scriptures?
    • How does this author portray Jesus adherents’ postures towards or interactions with imperial authorities?
    • What does Kotrosits argue concerning the anti-imperial or anti-Jewish scholarly debate?

3.  Noting diversity in forms of Jesus adherence

 

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Secret Revelation of John: Mythology, Philosophy, and Biblical Interpretation

1. Intro to Platonic philosophical forms of following Jesus (“Gnosticism”)

  • Patristic authors on “gnostics” and the discovery (in 1945) of the Nag Hammadi documents
  • Philosophical forms of Jesus adherence
    • Plato’s Timaeus: Idea of the perfect Good and (declining) emanations from that good
    • Middle Platonism and Numenius’ system – the divine triad as central
      • First God = “the Good”; Second God = Mind / Demiurge; World-soul (rational and irrational)
      • Human souls as fragments of the demiurge – goal of philosophy to reintegrate into the Good
      • Increasingly negative evaluation of the created material realm in later Platonic philosophy

3. The Secret Revelation (Apocryphon) of John and its mythology

  • Pre-180 CE (see Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.29-); manuscripts (long and short recensions); Genre and structure: Monologue / dialogue gospel
  • The basis and sources of the mythology: Greek Middle Platonic philosophy meets Judean biblical interpretation
  • Discussion questions:
    • Who are the main characters in this mythology, what are their roles, and what is the overall purpose?  What does this monologue / dialogue aim to explain?  What is the nature and significance of the distinction between spiritual and material realms?  What is the nature of the world we live in and how is salvation attained?
  • 1) Perfect spiritual realm  or “fullness / entirety” – both Judean and Platonic (Genesis creation narrative one)
  • 2) Inferior material realm – Sophia’s mistake and Yaltabaoth the jealous and ignorant god (Genesis creation narrative two)
  • 3) Salvation explained through interpreting Genesis 1-6 – Christ as bringer of knowledge to the immovable descendents of Seth
  • Discussion of Kotrosits’ interpretation

3. Implications regarding forms of Christianity

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John’s Apocalypse (Revelation) as Diaspora Response to the Temple Destruction

1.  Introductory matters: Apocalypticism and Diaspora responses to Roman imperialism

  • What is an Apocalypse?
    • (1) Apocalypticism (world-view)
    • (2) Millenial movements (social groups)
    • (3) Judean genre of apocalypse (writing)
  • Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE as a trauma for Judeans: Apocalyptic responses (4 Ezra; 2 Baruch, etc).

2.  Situation and Response

  • Situation:
    • Traditional explanations: Domitian’s persecution
    • Revised view: Futuristic visions that build upon some current or past incidents in order to convince followers of Jesus to maintain distance from “pagan”
      society and imperialism
    • Opponents in the letters: Followers of “Balaam” and “Jezebel” (Nicolaitans) (see Numbers 22-25; 1 Kings 18:4, 13; 19:1-2; 21:25-26)
      • Idol-food and “fornication” (metaphor for participation in “foreign” cultural practices)
  • Response:
    • Sectarian perspective of John’s Apocalypse
    • Call to endurance and worship of God and the Lamb (not the beast)
    • Distance from surrounding society: “Come out of her, my people…”(18:4-8)

     

  • Overview of the visions (see outline handout)

3.  Reactions of Roman imperialism and the temple destruction: Visions of Beasts and Babylon

  • The military and cultic critique of empire: Worship of the beast (ch. 13)
  • The economic critique of empire: Babylon the whore and the “fornicators” (chs. 17-18)
    • Links with the opponents in the letters (“fornication”)?
  • Comparison with other Jesus-adherents with regard to attitudes towards Roman imperial society (see 1 Peter 2:11-17)
  • Group-society issues among early Jesus-followers: Defining community boundaries

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Gospel of John: Jesus as Son and Revelation (Self-Expression) of the Father

1.  Introductory matters

  • Authorship, audience, date: “Beloved disciple” tradition; Johannine school/community
  • Date (c. 90-100 CE): Expelled from the synagogue (9:22; 12:42; 16:2)
  • Sources and composition:  Signs source; stages of editing
  • Distinctive features:
  • Widespread use of symbolism and dualism
  • Content and style of Jesus’ teaching: Philosophical discourses about himself (no parables about the kingdom!)
  • Emphasis on the role of the Spirit/Paraclete
  • Jesus’ miracles as “signs” (no exorcisms!)
  • Emphasis on love of one another as the key commandment of Jesus
  • Salvation and life in the present (lack of references to future return of Christ)

2.     John’s story of Jesus: Jesus the Son and self-expression (Word, Truth) of the Father

  • Portrayal of Jesus: Pre-existent Word; One with the Father (Father-Son motif)
  • Jesus as fulfilment of the Judean festivals; Crucifixion = exaltation

Outline (see handout)

3.  Locating John’s gospel

  • Portrayal of Jesus: High Christology
  • Judean and Hellenistic features
  • Johannine forms of following Jesus (community behind 1-3 John)
  • Gnostic use of John
  • Strengths/weaknesses
    • Problems: Lack of attention to the real-life social and economic contexts of Palestine (instead focussed on ideology); Less attention to the “present” aspects of the kingdom
    • Places Jesus solidly into the context of Judean culture; Accounts for the apocalyptic teacher and apocalyptic followers

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Gospel of Truth

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Introduction to the Gospels

1.  What are the gospels?

  • What kind of writing (genre) are the gospels (Richard Burridge’s synthesis):  Ancient historical-biographies: “Lives” (bioi) of Jesus; focus on stereotyped character and identity; Who is Jesus? as a central question
  • Writings with axes to grind: The historical Jesus vs. the Christ of faith
  • Surviving gospels: Canonical (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and non-canonical (e.g. Gospel of Thomas)
  • Dates, authorship and other introductory issues

2.  How did the gospels come about in the form we have them?

  • The process: Stages in the transmission of traditions used in the gospels
  • The methods of form criticism (esp. since 1919 – R. Bultmann): Identifying types of material originally passed on in oral form and relating this to settings in the life of the early churches

3.  What relationships are there among the gospels?

  • Similarities and differences in content and arrangement of the material in the gospels
  • The methods of source criticism (since late 1700s)
  • The “Synoptic problem”: Hypotheses of literary relationship
    • 1) Griesbach (Two-gospel) hypothesis (Mt first; Lk used Mt; Mk used both Lk and Mt)
    • 2) Markan priority without Q (Mk first; Mt second; Lk used both Mk and Mt)
    • 3) Two-source hypothesis, also known as four-source hypothesis (Mk first; Mt and Lk used Mk and another [hypothetical] sayings-source, called Q)

4.  Gospels as stories and portraits of Jesus

  • Gospels as more or less coherent stories with specific intentions and purposes
  • Redaction criticism (esp. since 1950s): Identifying the purposes and tendencies of specific gospel writers (how did an author revise and re-shape available material)
  • Literary and narrative approaches to the gospels (plots, characters and narrative development — esp. since the 1980s)

5.  Other historical approaches

  • Doing social history: Gospels as windows into community life?
  • Historical Jesus research: Problems in finding the Judean peasant

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Hebrews: Jesus as High-priest and Sacrificial Victim

1.  Introductory matters: Date, author, background

  • Date: c. 65-95 CE  (cf. 1 Clem 36)
  • Author: Hellenistic Judean
    • Judean and Hellenistic influences: Saturated in Judean scripture; Platonic ideas
  • Audience: Hellenistic Judeans that follow Jesus as Messiah
  • Background: Destruction of the temple in 70 CE

2.  Situation and Response (key in 13:7-18; cf. 10:19-25; cf. B. Lindars)

  • Situation: Segment of Judean Jesus-followers maintaining close connections with local Judean synagogue –  Danger of “falling away” (apostasy) and continuing in the practices of an “old” covenant (cf. 2:1-2; 3:12; 4:1; 6:4-6; 10:23)
    • Issue of atonement for sins and corresponding practices central
  • Response: “Hold fast” — Followers of Christ are to go to him “outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.” “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent [priests of the “old” order] have no right to eat.”

3.  Response elaborated: Jesus as “superior” high-priest and “once for all” sacrifice

  • Deliberative rhetoric: Dissuasion from a particular action (“falling away”)
  • Series of analogies and comparisons which show that Jesus Christ is the mediator of a “new” and “better” covenant as the ultimate high-priest and sacrificial victim:
    • “Superior” to angels (ch. 1); Pioneer of salvation (2)
    • “Superior” to Moses (3-4:13)
    • “Superior” to Levi as Melchizedek, self-sacrificing high-priest of the “new covenant” (4:14-5:10; 7-10:18)
      • Warning against apostasy and reminder of God’s promise (5:11-6)
      • Background:
        • Melchizedek and the priestly messiah in Judean literature (Gen.14:18-20; Ps. 110:4; Philo; Dead Sea Scrolls)
        • “New covenant” idea: Midrash of Jeremiah 31:31-37 (cf. DSS)
        • The high priest and sacrifice on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus16)
      • Melchizedek as “superior” to Levi (and Abraham) (7:1-20)
      • A “better covenant” with a “once for all sacrifice” (7:20-8:13)
      • Earthly tent (shadow / copy / outer) and true tent (original / ideal) (9:1-10:18)
        • Platonic ideas: Original form and copy / shadow; Dead Sea Scrolls notion of a
          forthcoming perfect temple and cult
        • Earthly cult and “better” heavenly cult: The great high priest “has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:26)
          • Followers of Jesus as a new order of priests
    • Dangers of falling away (apostasy) and need for faith (10:19-12)
      • Warning against apostasy (10:19-39)
      • Exhortation to faith and discipline (rather than apostasy) (11-12)
    • Closing (and key hints as to the situation): “outside the camp” (13)

4.  Locating Hebrews

  • Another Judean or Hellenistic-Judean form
  • Complicated nature of relations between Jesus-followers and Judean roots
    • Discussion in tutorial: Development of notions of supercession (Epistle of Barnabas)

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John’s Epistles and the Opponents: A “Gnostic” Trajectory?

1.  Introductory matters

  • Authorship, date, location, recipients of each letter (“elect lady” and Gaius)
  • Johannine community (probably in western Asia Minor)
  • Relationship between John’s gospel and the epistles
  • Common themes and view of Jesus: Son-Father-Spirit, word, life, truth, knowledge, light/darkness, “new commandment” of love

2.  Situation and response: Internal struggles in the Johannine churches

  • Schism (“they went out from us”) and identity of the schismatics
    • Docetism and the development of “Gnosticism”: “Anti-christs” or “false prophets” denying the complete humanity of Jesus and emphasizing his divinity (high Christology; cf. John’s gospel); denying his death’s significance for human sin: “we
      have no sin” (cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10; 2:18-25; 4:1-6; 5:6-8; 2 Jn 1:7-11)
  • Hospitality (3 Jn 1:5-10): Opponents (Diotrephes) and refusal of hospitality for follows of John the elder; John’s letter of recommendation (cf. 3 Jn 1:12)

3.  Locating John’s letters

  • Varying interpretations within the Johannine tradition

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Ignatius’ Epistles: Leadership Structures and Concepts of Martyrdom in the Second Century

1. Introductory matters

  • Ignatius’ identity (bishop of Antioch; hope of martyrdom; Romans 4; Philadelphians 10)
    • Concepts of martyrdom
  • Genre, date and audience: Letters to churches in western Asia Minor

2. Situation and response

  • Situation: Opponents in the Asian churches (one or two groups?)
    • Docetism (see Ephesians chs. 7-8; Magnesians 11; Trallians 9-10; Smyrnians 1-2, 5,
      7-8 [eucharist])

      • Comparing those who deny the flesh in John’s epistles
    • (Gentile?) Judaizing (see Magn. 8-10; Phil. 6 [Gentiles])
      • Comparing the Judean “myths” in the Pastoral epistles
    • Divided house-churches: Lack of communion
  • Response: Church leadership as monarchy
    • Unity under the bishop (cf. Eph. 4; Trall. 2; Smyrn. 8)
    • Defining “proper” belief: The move toward creeds
    • Common meetings/communion (Eph. 5.3; 20.2; Magn. 4; Phil. 4; Smyrn. 7-8)

3. Group-society relations: Jesus-followers and outsiders (society) in Ignatius

  • Maintaining peaceable relations (cf. Eph. 10 [“brothers’]; 12; Trall. 3; 8)

4. Locating Ignatius’ letters

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