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
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.
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.
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.
Following an introduction that seeks to locate stories about apostles within ancient (especially popular) narratives, the chapter presents analytic and critical summaries of three groups: these are the five ‘major’ apocryphal acts, intermediate works including the Acts of Philip and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, and representatives of the ‘minor acts’, works which are devoted to Titus and Barnabas, as well as the Doctrine of Addai. The chapter therefore illustrates a trajectory by which the canonical Acts developed over the course of time to hagiography and pamphlets claiming ecclesiological privilege. A brief final section notes outstanding tasks for future research and study.
This chapter sets out to situate non-canonical epistles in the wider literary context of letter writing in Late Antiquity and in the historical context of early Christianity. It notes that letters appear to be less prominent among Early Christian Apocrypha than they are in other collections of Christian texts, such as the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, and in early Christian literature more widely. One possible explanation is that letters that might have been considered apocryphal were in fact accepted among early collections that came to be included in the New Testament. Another possibility is that some apocryphal letters have been neglected and are therefore less well known that they might be. The remainder of the chapter surveys a number of these texts.
Michael J. Roberts
Christian Latin poetry began in all probability with the unmetrical quasi-hexameters of Commodian, now generally dated to the mid-third century
John A. McGuckin
Greek Christian hymns are a massive part of the surviving literary record of the early church, but have rarely attracted the level of scholarly attention that they deserve. This article discusses Greek hymnody; the classical origins of the Greek Christian hymns; the Bible and the ancient liturgy; stages of Syrian influence on Byzantine hymnography; hymns of the heterodox–orthodox Struggles; littérateur poets in Greek late antiquity; and the flowering of Byzantine hymnography in the sixth to eleventh Centuries. In Greek hymnody, one can see creed, antiphon, poem, prayer, song, and sacrament welded to form a seamless unity: here Byzantine theology, mysticism, and liturgical chant merge into a profound symbiosis in a programme that already consciously understood itself to be a theology of beauty and of culture. The ancient hymn is thus a potent symbol, still awaiting its full articulation.
Sebastian P. Brock
Poetry has always played a very important role in the history of Syriac literature, and even today, collections of poems by contemporary authors continue to appear. Verse can often also serve as the vehicle for instruction, the most notable example of which is the thirteenth-century polymath Bar 'Ebroyo's verse Grammar. But, it is above all in the writings of some of the great authors of the fourth to sixth centuries, and in the liturgical tradition, that Syriac poetry has found its finest expression. This article discusses Ephrem' s madrashe, metres, the narrative memre, dialogue poems, the later liturgical traditions, and translation into and out of Greek.
George J. Brooke
This article describes and discusses some aspects of biblical interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, aspects that in some way seem to suggest common concerns, whether in terms of content, of form, or of method. It looks at the topic of exegetical traditions that are shared between the compositions preserved in the scrolls found in the eleven caves at and near Qumran and those to be found in the books of the New Testament. Amongst the key issues that need to be kept in mind are: the variety of the witnesses to the Jewish scriptures in the late Second Temple period, whether in Hebrew or in Greek; the rich variety of types of exegesis that extend far beyond eschatologically motivated prophetic fulfilment in both sets of literature; and the range of exegetical methods in both corpora.
As a general overview, the article explores the whole range of non-canonical texts about Jesus. Starting with aspects of the scholarly and public interest in those texts, and questions of genre and classification, the article discusses scattered sayings of Jesus (agrapha), the more important papyrus fragments of unknown gospels, and the fragmentary quotations from lost Jewish-Christian gospels and from the Gospel of the Egyptians. Then the more important infancy gospels are discussed (Protevangelium of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and later compilations), the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Pilate, and the Gospel of Nicodemus, further sayings gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip, and dialogue gospels such as the Epistula Apostolorum and the gospels of Mary and Judas. Finally, traditions about Jesus' writing such as the Abgar legend and the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark and the problems of its authenticity are presented.
Arie Van der Kooij
Since, as is generally assumed, the biblical books in Hebrew (and Aramaic) go back to a period of a much earlier date – that of the seventh to the second centuries