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.

“The Gendered Palimpsest”


(Larry Hurtado): Kim Haines-Eitzen is already known as a talented and innovative scholar in the study of early Christian manuscripts, especially through her earlier book, Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature (Oxford University Press,2000). (For contrasting assessments, see the reviews by David Parker and Ulrich Schmid in TC: Her new book comprises another interesting contribution to questions about literacy, reading, and gender in early Christianity (albeit more of the late Roman period): The Gendered Palimpsest: Women, Writing, and Representation in Early Christianity (OUP, 2012).

This isn’t the place for a full assessment, but my own reading of the book leads me to commend it to anyone interested in early Christianity. There are some controversial assertions (a few that raised my eyebrows too), but that’s what scholars do! Here’s a brief overview of contents.
1. Women Writers, Writing for Women: Authors, Scribes, Book-Lenders, and Patrons. (The various roles that women played in the production, dissemination and use of texts in early Christianity)
2. Reading, Not Eating: Women Readers in Late Ancient Christian Asceticism.
3. Women’s Literature? The Case of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. (Querying the notion that these texts were particularly directed at women readers.)
4. Sinners and Saints, Silent and Submissive? The Textual/Sexual Transformation of Female Characters in the New Testament and Beyond. (Case studies from various texts.)
5. “First among All Women”: The Story of Thecla in Textual Transmission and Iconographic Remains.
6. Contesting the Ascetic Language of Eros: Textual Fluidity in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. (Interesting study of how textual variants in these texts seem to reflect varying ideas about female sexuality.)


New Volume on the New Testament Text


(Larry Hurtado): One of our PhD graduates from a few year ago, Michael Kruger, together with Charles Hill, edited a multi-author volume just published by Oxford University Press that is worth note: The Early Text of the New Testament. Other contributors include our own Dr. Paul Foster (“The Text of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers”), and former PhD students: Michael Kruger (“Early Christian Attitudes Toward the Reproduction of Texts”), and Dieter Roth (“Marcion and the New Testament Text”). My own contribution = “Toward a Sociology of Reading in Early Christianity”).

Here’s the link to Kruger’s own blog site, giving the full contents and line-up:

British Academy Post-Doc: Sean Adams


(Larry Hurtado): One of our very recent PhD graduates, Sean Adams, has been awarded one of the very competitive (three-year) British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships in the latest round, and will taking it up based here in New College. Sean’s PhD thesis was an attempt to assess (more fully than previous efforts) the likely level of educational/rhetorical training reflected in Acts of the Apostles. Building on his previous work (including also his undergraduate studies in Classics), he summarizes his rather ambitious project as follows:

“My project begins with an overview of the Greek education system to determine (as far as possible) which authors and genres were taught at which level of education. Particular emphasis will be given to understanding the role of rhetorical training within the educational system, specifically the use of progymnasmata (“rhetorical handbooks”). Having looked at Greek education generally, I will focus on the known/suspected differences between Jewish and non-Jewish Greek education to determine what author/text preferences may have existed.
This study will provide a holistic evaluation of education in the first century CE, delineating the boundaries of literary, genre, or rhetorical claims that may be made on that basis. The findings will be applied to New Testament authors in general, with a particular focus on Luke and Paul. Overall, I argue that a thorough understanding of the Hellenistic Greek educational system and the texts and authors studied in (Jewish-)Hellenistic schools is necessary for establishing claims of literary influence on the New Testament.”

As well, Sean will be offered teaching opportunities and professional mentoring, as a part of the responsibilities we take on in accepting BA Fellows. We all join in congratulating him, and we look forward to the progress of his project.

Ancient Christian Artifacts in Rome: Origins of Scholarly Work


(Larry Hurtado) By happy accident (often a feature of scholarly research!) yesterday, I ran across an article I would likely never have learned about otherwise: Ann Marie Yasin, “Displaying the Sacred Past: Ancient Christian Inscriptions in Early Modern Rome,” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 7 (2000): 39-57.
Yasin focuses on the origins of scholarly investigation of ancient Christian sites and artifacts in Rome, particularly inscriptions and grave sites. I was surprised to learn that this takes us back to the late 15th century (Fra Giocondon and Pietro Sabino, who catalogued inscriptions). Archaeological work began with Antonio Bosio, who discovered the Roman catacombs “on an unprecedented scale” from 1593 (Bosio published his “monumental work”, Roman sotterranea in 1632).
As she further shows, all through the 17th and 18th centuries, the Roman Church was keenly interested in the investigation, acquisition, and study of ancient Christian artifacts, particularly those reflective of, or thought to be connected with, early Christian martyrs. The furtherance of connections with the ancient period of Christianity was seen as of great interest by church authorities.
It is interesting also that in this period a number of scholars valued “material evidence” over texts, as they were so suspicious of the forgery and alteration of texts.

Qumran: Some Counts from Falk


(Larry Hurtado) I found Daniel Falk’s (University of Oregon) presention yesterday (in a special CSCO session) very interesting in a number of points. One of these was some of the manuscripts data he provided. By his count, 131 of the ca. 930 manuscripts from the Dead Sea sites are papyrus, which = ca. 14% (the remaining ones skin). Of the papyrus mss, ca. 50% are poetic and/or “community rule” texts. By comparison, only about 1% of the papyrus mss contain biblical texts. This confirms the ancient Jewish preference for manuscripts of skin for biblical texts.
Falk also counts some 21 “opisthographs” (i.e., re-used scrolls, with a new text written on the outer side of the roll), 14 of which are papyrus, and 7 of them containing prayer texts. As Falk judged, these opisthographs were likely copies for individuals, showing an interest among some to have personal copies of these texts.
All this gives us yet another snapshot of the use of ancient texts, this snapshot very much based on artifactual evidence.