Author Archives: larryhurtado

About larryhurtado

I'm a scholar in New Testament and Christian Origins, currently Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology in the University of Edinburgh (since 1996), and previously Professor in the Department of Relgiion, University of Manitoba.

“New Documents” Vol 10

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I’ve just received my copy of Volume 10 of the valuable series, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, eds. S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison (Eerdmans, 2012).  For those who don’t know the series, each volume reviews publications of texts and inscriptions from a preceding period of years.  This latest volume covers 1988-1992.

The original publications (typically journal articles) are cited, but the editors/contributors in fact make their own analysis and offer their own comments on the items addressed.  The work represented in these volumes is also invested toward the larger/long-term project of a massive database (with extensive annotations) on all ancient papyri from Egypt pertaining to early Christianity.

The latter project has been the dream of Prof. Edwin Judge, whose energy and vision early on guided the emergence of the Ancient History Documentary Research Centre in Macquarie University (Australia), and the “New Documents” series is based in that Centre (which now forms part of the Ancient Cultures Research Centre in Macquarie).

As with previous volumes in the series, this one covers a wide spectrum of genres and topics, citing recent publications of texts on philosophy, magic, “cult and oracle”, public life, household, “Judaica” and “Christianity,” some 29 component-articles in all, plus indexes of subjects, words (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic), ancient authors & works cited, inscriptions, papyri, and texts cited from the Bible, Qumran and Rabbinic works.

For those of us who are not professional epigraphers or palaeographers, but who would like to harvest relevant information on new publications in these fields, this series is a valuable (even unique) tool.    Thanks to all involved!

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Christianity and Roman Society: A Good Read

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(Larry Hurtado):  Over the last couple of weeks one of the books I’ve worked through is Gillian Clark’s Christianity and Roman Society (CUP, 2004), and I commend it heartily.  At only 121 pp., plus bibliography & index, it packs in an impressive amount of cogent and sage discussion in a small package.

Clark focuses on the right, key questions:  “How on earth did this tiny religious splinter-group survive to become the dominant religion of the Roman world?” (p. 13).  And, after noting the views of some scholars that Christianity was essentially a savvy amalgam of Greek philosophical ideals, Jewish scripture, and emphases promoted in the Roman environment, she asks, “So, if Christianity was one among many religious options in Roman society, proclaiming one among many saviours, why would anybody choose it?  This was the one option that was neither compatible with tradition religion, nor respected as Judaism was for its ancient monotheist tradition” (p. 15).

Time after time, as Clark engages thorny issues, she seems to me to display commendable good sense in her judgments.  For example, she writes, “But the more we understand about religious options in the early centuries CE, the more difficult it is to answer the great historical question.  Why did Christianity survive and succeed in Roman society?” and “Why would they [pagans] choose the one religious option that could get them executed for subversion?” (p. 37). Noting that “it takes only one terrorist attack to make people afraid,” she observes that the early Christian fear of persecution was real, regardless of how many Christians were actually executed (p. 47).

She also rightly cautions against the simplistic tendency of some to write off early Christian asceticism as “madness ” (so, e.g., E. R. Dodds), or as prompted by and expressive of various forms of neurosis.

In discussing the question, “What difference did Christianity make?,”  she strikes me as offering a balanced appraisal, offering specific ways in which Christianity was like its cultural environment and specific ways in which it did differ.

Heartily recommended!

Kruger on the NT Canon

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(Larry Hurtado):  One our former PhD students, Michael Kruger, has produced a fine study of the emergence of the New Testament canon:  Canon Revisited:  Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway Books, 2012).  Kruger’s first book (arising from his PhD thesis here) was The Gospel of the Savior : An Analysis of P.Oxy.840 and Its Place in the Gospel Traditions of Early Christianity (Leiden: Brill, 2005), in which he focused on a portion of an unidentified early Christian gospel-like text, P. Oxryrhynchus 840, producing a “360” study of pretty much all features and questions relating to this fascinating text.

In Canon Revisited, Kruger (addressing a diverse readership including “general” readers as well as scholars) offers a case for whether “the Christian belief in the canon is intellectually justified” (p. 11).  He shows impressive acquaintance with the primary data and also with an oceanic body of scholarship on the issues treated.  Essentially, Kruger argues that the NT writings evidence an awareness by their authors that they were writing with a certain sense of authority (as, e.g., in Paul’s letters to his churches) and/or with a profound aim of providing reliable bases for Christian faith and practice.  In this sense, he contends, the NT writings already have the germ of a canonical/scriptural role.

It is, of course, a position that will generate critique as well as consent.  But Kruger makes his case clearly, without special pleading, and with a wide compass.  And we’re always pleased to see the further academic productivity of our PhD graduates.  Congratulations, Mike!

An Online Resource on Simon Peter

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(Larry Hurtado):  Professor Markus Bockmuehl, who has written two important books on the Apostle Peter and will be one of the featured speakers in our conference on Peter to be held here 4-6 July 2013, has set up a helpful online resource on Simon Peter available here.  There are tabs to click on that yield bibliographical pointers, and chronologically-arranged sources on Peter.

“The Obedient Son”: Brandon Crowe’s New Book

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(Larry Hurtado):  I’ve just been perusing a new book by one of our former PhD students, Brandon Crowe (2010), now Assistant Professor of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary.  Brandon’s book is a revised version of his PhD thesis:  The Obedient Son:  Deuteronomy and Christology in the Gospel of Matthew (BZNW 188; Berlin:  De Gruyter, 2012). 

He argues that the theme/emphasis in Deuteronomy on Israel’s sonship to God as requiring obedience contributed significantly to the presentation of Jesus as God’s Son in the Gospel of Matthew.  To cite Crowe’s words, “Matthew . . . thus articulates the story of Jesus in contrqst to Israel, using Son of God as a primary means for conveying this asymmetrical correspondence.”  In Crowe’s argument, this has both christological and soteriological implications:  “The obedience of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s requirements for Israel thereby enables those who are unable themselves to ‘fulfill all righteiousness’ to be part of God’s family through the Son who has proven obedient on their behalf.” 

It’s always satisfying to see our PhD students succeeding and making contributions to scholarship.  Hearty congratulations, Brandon!