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Celebrating a Scholar: Edwin A. Judge

December 15, 2011

At the recent annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature Alanna Nobbs kindly presented me with a gift copy of a collection of essays (edited by her) by the important Australian scholar of early Christianity and its Roman-era setting, Edwin A. Judge, Jerusalem and Athens:  Cultural Transformation in Late Antiquity (WUNT 265; Tuebingen:  Mohr Siebeck, 2010). 

I’m pleased to have the volume, and I’m grateful to Alanna for editing it.  Judge is the sort of scholar who has produced a goodly number of important essays over many decades now, rather than books, and perhaps partially because of this his work may not be as well known as it ought to be.  But I have yet to read an essay by Judge that didn’t make me realize how much there was to learn, and how impressively Judge is able to make incisive analyses about anything he engages.

Judge first came to notice in NT circles back in the (late) 70s through his little pioneering monograph, The Social Pattern of Christian Groups in the First Century (London:  Tyndale Press, 1960).  The book sat little noticed it appears for a number of years, essentially because it was ahead of its time in focusing on aspects of the social characteristics of early Christianity in the context of Roman-era social structures.  By the 70s, however, when some NT scholars had begun to catch onto the topic, Judge’s work came into some of the recognition that it deserved, e.g., in A. J. Malherbe’s book, Social Aspects of Early Christianity (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State University Press, 1977).

That pioneering 1960 study, along with several other essays relating to early Christianity, were brought together by David Scholer a few years ago:  E. A. Judge, Social Distinctives of the Christians in the First Century: Pivotal Essays by E. A. Judge, ed. David Scholer (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008).  This earlier collection will richly repay readers, perhaps especially students gearing up for serious work in Christian Origins.

The more recent volume comprises twenty-two additional essays that reflect the broader reaches of Judge’s interests and abilities.  I’ve only begun to feast on the volume’s contents, but I’m already again in Judge’s debt, from essays such as “The Beginning of Religious History,” “Group Religions in the Roman Empire,” “The Impact of Paul’s Gospel on Ancient Society,” and “Christian Innovation and its Contemporary Observers.”  The volume combines essays with such wide scope and integrating knowledge with others focused on particular documentary texts, e.g., “The Earliest Use of monachos for ‘Monk’ (P. Coll.Youtie 77) and the Origins of Monasticism.”

In addition to his own scholarly output, Judge was the founding father of the study of Ancient History in Macquarie University (which now is probably the leading Australian venue for this subject).  The project he inaugurated, to prepare a full edited catalogue of documentary texts referring to Christians/Christianity from ancient Egypt, is now nearing publication.  This will be a further monument to his leadership and inspirtation of others.

Judge is a very modest man, and may well find it embarrassing for me to praise him in public like this.  But I am unrepentant.  He deserves it, richly.  And anyone seriously interested in the Roman world and especially the place of Christianity in it is advised herewith to make acquaintance with Judge’s ample body of work.

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6 Comments
  1. Ross Macdonald permalink

    I asked ‘Santa Claus’ for the larger Harrison/Judge volume this Christmas; and I noticed the Nobbs/Judge volume at that time. You wouldn’t happen to know if this more recent volume shares essays with the Harrison/Judge volume? I wasn’t sure if some had been regurgitated or if it was entirely new. If you couldn’t tell, I’m happily seeking to gobble up writing by Prof. Judge!

  2. I remember on one of my first international conferences, incidentally an SBL Meeting in Edinburgh, I gave a paper on P.Oxy 34.2684 (= Greg.-Aland P78), which I suggested was probably an amulet. I had made small replicas of the tiny papyrus which I distributed along with the handouts. In one of the breaks, in the cafeteria, this modest old gentleman walked up to me and told me that he had unfortunately missed my presentation, but apparently his colleagues had shown him those fake amulets and he very much wanted one. I handed it to him. As he introduced himself as Edwin Judge I realized that I had just referred to his essay, “The Magical Use of Scripture,” in Perspectives on Language and Text: Essays and Poems in Honor of Francis I. Andersen’s Sixtieth Birthday (ed. Edgar W. Conrad and Edward G. Newing; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1987), 339-49, which was very important in the preparation of this paper.

  3. Dave Lincicum permalink

    Thank you for highlighting Judge, who really is an impressive scholar and whom it is humbling and challenging to read. In addition to the two volumes you mention (edited by Scholer and Nobbs respectively), there is of course also a third volume of collected essays (that dwarfs the other two in size, with 44 essays): J. R. Harrison, ed., The First Christians in the Roman World: Augustan and New Testament Studies (Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 786 pp. Lots there of interest to NT specialists!

  4. Jeff Wild permalink

    You are lucky you got it as a gift :-)

    Because on amazon.com it is priced at $197.50.

    What are publishers thinking?

    • Yes, it’s one of the problems in academic publishing that books can cost a lot, especially if they’re seen as likely limited in sales-potential. In those instances, publishers have little choice but to hope to sell a small number of copies to libraries that seek to acquire as much serious scholarly publications as they can afford. Multi-author volumes, essay-collections, etc., just don’t typically sell well, and some publishers won’t even take them on. Mohr Siebeck is an old and very respected academic publisher that will bring out such works, but they have to recoup their costs. So, much dinero for some volumes. Best to try to consult them in good libraries. Or, if you’re lucky, you get an offer to review a book, which = a free reviewer’s copy. (One of the small “perks” for scholars!)

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