Gerard J. Norton
This article first gives a schematic outline of the history of the Hebrew text in four stages. It then presents the elements that readers will meet in modern editions of that text. These modern editions find a common focus in the great Tiberian manuscripts of about 1000
John R. Bartlett
This article discusses archaeology's impact on biblical scholarship, especially over the last two centuries. It describes the Christian pilgrims, explorers, travellers, map makers, and military surveyors who paved the way for the archaeologists. It focuses on twentieth-century archaeology in Palestine/Israel, demonstrating archaeology's growing independence as a discipline, and its effect on modern understanding of the Bible's presentation of history.
John R. Bartlett
This article discusses the contributions of archaeology to biblical scholarship. Biblical scholarship needs the archaeologist as it needs the anthropologist, the epigraphist, the philologist, the Assyriologist, the classical scholar, the student of Qumran, the rabbinic scholar, and others for the interpretation of the biblical writings. Archaeology is not so much a method of biblical scholarship as an intellectual discipline and practice, incorporating many methods and subject to many methodologies, assisting the modern interpretation of the Bible.
Perhaps no scriptural passage has divided the church so bitterly, or so often, as the ninth article of the Epistle to the Romans. Predestinarian readings take two forms, one of which maintains that God predestines us to salvation or reprobation in the light of faith or works foreseen, the other that this predestining is itself the unconditioned cause of the good that he foresees. Both can claim the authority of Augustine, the foremost theologian of the first millennium. His adversary Pelagius found a different stratagem — not unknown in modern times — which enabled him to deny that Paul endorsed any species of predestination. To explain how each arrived at his conclusions, we must first sketch the theology of salvation that each set out to reconcile with the difficult text of this epistle.
Colleen M. Conway
This chapter begins with a brief overview of the theorists who have shaped gender analytical work on the New Testament, especially the application of gender theory in classical studies. It then concentrates on gender analyses on New Testament writings that demonstrate the differing approaches of masculinity studies, queer theory, and intersectional analysis. The primary focus is on gender construction in Paul’s letters and the canonical gospels, with additional discussion of symbolic and metaphorical uses of gender in other writings of the New Testament. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of future directions for gender criticism.
Stephen J. Shoemaker
The apocryphal literature of early Christianity consists primarily of narrative traditions about the life and teaching of Jesus, his family, and his apostles, as well as letters, apocalyptic visions, and other-worldly journeys attributed to these individuals that fall outside the biblical canon. These writings, however, do not always correspond to the literary genres of the New Testament. The production of apocrypha in antiquity was of course not limited to early Christianity or to Christian themes. The various expressions of ancient Judaism also produced a wealth of extra-biblical writings about the many personages of the Hebrew scriptures. These apocrypha, perhaps more commonly known today as the ‘pseudepigrapha’, were also embraced by various early and medieval Christian groups, who made these writings their own, often redacting them according to Christian interests and concerns.
Raymond Van Dam
The apostle Paul was primarily responsible for the initial introduction of Christianity in western, central, and southern Asia Minor and in the Greek peninsula. During the mid-first century his evangelism had taken him from the first communities of Christians in Palestine and Syria as far as the northern frontier regions in the Balkans. Paul's writings were even more influential; in particular, his letters were included in the canon of the New Testament, along with the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. As a result, while the Gospels of course highlighted Jesus's ministry in Palestine, much of the rest of the New Testament represented the concerns of early Christian communities in Asia Minor and Greece. Asia Minor in particular retained its vital importance in eastern Christianity for centuries, producing several of the major theologians of late antiquity.
Few if any regions in which ancient Christianity thrived capture the modern imagination in the same way as Palestine and Egypt, whose famous cities and equally famous desert regions provided the settings for Jesus and his first followers, and later, for innovative theologians and legendary monks. This article focuses on problems or themes that shape the current study of both of these regional varieties of ancient Christianity. Despite the numerous significant differences between Egypt and Palestine, and between the courses that Christianity took in them, the churches in these areas shared common features. In both cases, forms of Christianity originated as forms of Judaism. The formidable Origen spent his career and left his mark in both Egypt and Palestine, which were later troubled by disputes over ‘Origenism’. Monasticism took root in both areas, where it contributed in different ways to reconfigurations of sacred space and to processes of Christianization.
Lucas Van Rompay
Syriac Christianity emerged in northern Mesopotamia, an area of encounter between various peoples and civilizations in which Aramean settlement began as early as the end of the second millennium
Both apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works are increasingly studied at an academic level for what they reveal of the religious preoccupations of their writers and the communities that first received them. The apocryphal writings in particular are a valuable witness to the many strands of Judaism during the period when the Second Temple stood in Jerusalem, spanning roughly the time period between the composition of the Hebrew Bible and the writings of the New Testament. This article discusses apocryphal writings covering several different genres, sometimes even within the same book. These include wisdom literature, which gives advice for right conduct and a successful life, linked to a religious outlook; apocalyptic writing, offering hope of momentous supernatural intervention at the end of history in order to save the people of God, sometimes through the agency of an anointed one or ‘Messiah’; historiography or writing that purports to be history; edifying stories, which are essentially folk tales with a religious message; rewritten Bible, where a familiar story from Scripture is retold with different emphases; and prayers and psalms that may have had a liturgical or devotional function.
John M. Court
This article surveys the growth of the New Testament. The story of the movement in the first centuries towards the canon of the New Testament has three particularly significant historical features, or catalysts, and three literary aspects. The historical catalysts are, first, the existence in the first centuries of groups with alternative Christian philosophies, often labelled ‘Gnostic’; if their rationale is too different, they need to be held at a distance. Second, there is the influence, in the mid-second century, of Marcion, whose programme was to exclude both the Old Testament texts and any elements that echoed the Old within the New Testament. And third, there was a second-century movement, known as Montanism, which emphasized the elements of prophecy, continuing charismatic inspiration, and a revolutionary view of the future. The three significant literary aspects concern the gospels, the epistles, and the other texts with apostolic associations. Revelation is the culmination of the church's self-understanding and the climax of the process of growth of the New Testament.
Andrew S. Jacobs
A concise narrative of the split between ancient Judaism and Christianity persists in modern scholarship. This narrative has its roots in a theologically conditioned, supersessionist reading of the New Testament, in which the messianic salvation rejected by the Jews was taken up by Gentile believers and became the distinct religion of ‘the Christians’. The ‘parting of the ways’ is a clear yet benign metaphor which allows each religion to maintain a robust history and a common genealogy, just connected enough to justify ongoing, friendly relations, but not so connected that the distinctive tradition of each religion becomes too blurred. The present challenge for the historian of early Jewish–Christian relations is to juggle the rhetorical bias of the sources with the academic desire for an unbiased analysis of history.
Craig A. Evans
This article reviews studies on the life and teaching of Jesus and the rise of Christianity. The beginning of critical research into the life of Jesus is traditionally traced to the posthumous publication of seven fragments of a lengthy manuscript on ‘reasonable religion’ by Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768). In the 1960s and 1970s life of Jesus research continued, but often the emphasis was placed on Jesus as a social or political figure, rather than as one relevant for faith. Some of the studies that appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, however, seem to represent a quest not governed primarily by theological or political agendas. Jewish scholars are now active participants in the discussion.
Calvin J. Roetzel
This essay compares Paul’s human profile with that of the mythic apostle portrayed in both canonical and non-canonical sources. It highlights Paul’s formative years in Tarsus, his urban, Hellenistic background, the Greek he learned, and the philosophy he engaged in a diverse cultural setting. His Diaspora Jewish upbringing, schooling, scriptural study, and religious observance engaged his Hellenistic world in a vital reciprocity that was life-changing. On the other hand, both canonical and non-canonical materials conspired to portray another Paul of myth and legend. This image focused on but was not limited to portraying the mythic Paul—Paul as miracle worker, the celibate Paul, and Paul as martyr. Rather than juxtaposing the portrait of the mythic against the historical Paul, casting one as ‘true’ the other ‘false’, this essay suggests that both versions collaborate to offer a portrait that is more real and theologically nuanced than either taken alone.
Samuel N. C. Lieu
Of all the heresies that threatened the unity of the early church, the followers of Mani occupied an exceptional position, as they were devotees not of Jesus but first and foremost of a prophet from Mesopotamia who claimed to be a latter-day ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’ and possessor of ‘the seal of the prophet’. Mani, the founder of the sect, gave a more gnostic interpretation to the rituals, but his views were held to be dangerous by the elders of the sect, who subsequently expelled him. It was probably in India that Mani encountered Buddhist asceticism and monasticism as well as the doctrine of metempsychosis. On his return to Mesopotamia, he converted the Shah of Mesene to his teaching, and through him Mani was able to have an audience with Shapur I, the second Shahanshah of the new Sasanian dynasty, which had replaced Parthian rule in the Near East.
Susan Ashbrook Harvey
A large body of literature survives from the early Christian period, devoted first to accounts of martyrdom suffered on behalf of the emerging religion and then to lives of exemplary Christian witness. They appeared in every language of the early Christian period, establishing literary traditions that flourished throughout the medieval and Byzantine periods, and even today. These texts have an importance for early Christian studies separate from their role in the cult of saints, and their study has its own scholarly issues. This article addresses these literary concerns, rather than those related to the cult of saints. ‘Hagiography’ is an umbrella term covering writings about holy persons. By the Middle Ages, it was a particular literary form: the ‘Life’, or vita, of a saint, distinct from the martyr's ‘passion’, the account of a martyr's suffering death.
Richard M. Price
It is a mistake to suppose that the scientific history of the Christian church, worthy of continuing use, started only a few decades ago. Arguably, the best work with which to begin a study of the Roman persecutions is article 16 of Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1776. The earliest literary evidence for the cult of martyrs dates to the mid-second century, and relates to the place of burial of the martyred Polycarp of Smyrna. This article also discusses the witness of the martyrs; saints and Christian living; a religion of Sundays or of saints' days; miracles; archaeology and art; and the cult of the Virgin Mary.
This article on material evidence for early Christianity begins with examples of the intersection of archaeology, pseudo-archaeology, and media attention. Such instances demonstrate that the study of the early Christian material record frequently excites extraordinary emotions. While such concerns will be attached particularly to discoveries associated with the period of the New Testament, the study of early Christian archaeology as a whole has often been held in tension between what might be termed ‘dogmatic concerns’ and ‘scientific archaeology’. While the discussion surveys the range of archaeological evidence for early Christianity and the potential avenues of inquiry that it opens up for modern scholars, it also offers a critical summary of how the study of early Christian archaeology has developed, and how interpretations have often been driven by interests extraneous to the evidence itself.
Robin M. Jensen
Like other students of culture, historians of ancient Christianity deem the visual art, artefacts, and architecture of the early church as resources indispensable to discerning how various early Christian communities expressed and transmitted their religious beliefs. The study of visual images not only supplements and balances documentary research, but often affords scholars access to objects which are not only of great beauty, but which act as powerful agents of message and meaning. Furthermore, it opens the question of how vision itself functioned in religious practice. The insights gained from the study of visual culture are achieved not only from comparing textual evidence with material evidence, but also from the appreciation of the interpretive role, expressive power, and aesthetic qualities of physical remains in their own right, along with the analysis of the visual experience itself as a meaning-constructive activity.
Christianity had ascetic commitments from its very foundation, in the words and deeds both of Jesus and of Paul. When it surfaced into legitimacy in the 310s, Christianity's deep-seated ascetic impulses surfaced as well. The movement called monasticism left an indelible impression upon Christian faith and practice in the medieval West, the Byzantine East, and beyond. Two classic forms of monasticism emerged early: the anchoritic, or solitary life of the hermit; and the cenobitic, or life within a structured community. Monastic life required, from the outset, stark renunciations: of family, property, marriage, and career. Early monks typically joined ascetical disciplines – fasting, vigils, poverty, lifelong celibacy – with a life of manual labour. This article surveys the classic figures and classic texts, since these provide the point of departure for contemporary research, both the deconstruction of received views and the reconstructions opened up by new discoveries and new methods.