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Reprints of Important Studies on Early Christology

I’m one of the editors of a series published by Baylor University Press:  Library of Early Christology.  The series largely consists of reprints of important publications of the distant or recent past.  See the publisher’s online list of volumes in the series here.

The volumes include some from the older so-called religionsgeschichtliche Schule (history of religion school) of the early 20th century, which were landmarks of their day, but some of their claims now dubious (e.g., Reitzenstein, Bousset).  There are also a number of more recent studies that reflect what some have referred to as “the new religionsgeschichtliche Schule, which often were initially published in more expensive monograph series, and now much more affordably priced by BUP in this series.

Students and newer scholars seeking to acquire these important volumes for easy reference should check out this series.

Gordley’s New Book on NT “Christological Hymns”

While I’m temporarily at home, I can’t resist drawing attention to a splendid new book by Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns:  Exploring Texts, Contexts, and Significance (IVP Academic, 2018).

He  carefully discusses all the passages in the NT often thought to be, or to reflect, early Christian “hymns”, and so to reflect also early Christian worship practices (Phiiippians 2:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:1-18; and several other shorter texts including Ephesians 2:14-16; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1-4; the Lukan nativity-narrative songs; and (often overlooked) the hymns of Revelation.  He engages more recent questions about whether these texts (such as Philippians 2:6-11) really are (as often thought previously) pre-formed hymns plugged into epistles, or (as Gordley grants) perhaps more likely compositions by the authors of the various NT writings.  But he also cogently argues that they likely incorporate hymnic elements from early worship, and so are indirectly indicative of such practices.

I’m very impressed with the coverage of scholarly work in the book.  Of course, this is Gordley’s third book relating to these hymnic texts and related issues.

One of his further contributions is to emphasize the original social and historical contexts in which christological praise and hymnic devotion were expressed.  The texts all posit Jesus as the true universal saviour and ruler, which poses an obvious contrast with the Roman imperial narrative of Rome as the world ruler, and the emperor in particular as rightful object of worship.  Gordley posits a “spirituality of resistance” reflected in these texts.  Not open resistance/revolt against Rome, to be sure, but an advocacy of an alternate grand narrative and hope that treats the emperor as only a human ruler, and not the divine being in Roman propaganda.

I’ve endorsed the book as the “go-to book on the texts often cited as New Testament hymns,” and I stand by that.

In addition to the excellent scholarly analysis of the texts and issues, Gordley concludes with some gentle but probing questions and suggestions about how contemporary Christian worship and hymnody might benefit from close attention to these NT texts.

Update on Me

I’m temporarily at home between chemo courses.  I was in hospital all of July, and so no blogging.  I go back in for another course of chemo and in hospital recovery beginning 27th August. So, you’ll be spared again from further blog postings for a number of weeks. I’m sure everyone will survive!

A Very Good Suggestion for Combining Learning and Holiday Time: VTBS

The brochure for the 2019 Vacation Term for Biblical Study is just out, and there is an impressive lineup of lecturers.  The VTBS is a unique opportunity to have lectures from top-notch scholars in biblical studies (and related subjects), and a lovely setting in Cambridge (UK).  I give here the brochure so you can see for yourself: VTBS Brochure 2019.

Share the word, fellow bloggers!


Going Offline . . . for a While

Starting intensive chemo therapy Mon, which will take 4-6 weeks.  So I won’t have much to blog about for that foreseeaable future.  Everyone enjoy the summer (at least those of you in the northern hemisphere!).

Calling All Interested in Papyri

I’ve been asked to circulate the following invitation from Prof. William Johnson to any/all seriously interested in the study of ancient papyri:

If you have papyrological interests, I want to point out to you the great deal offered by the American Society of Papyrologists. An individual ASP membership costs $35, and for that you will an annual subscription to theBulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, almost 400 pages of high-quality papyrology spanning a wide range of subject matter, from editions to essays. Our new arrangement with Peeters Publishers allows us to offer this without shipping or other additional costs.
Where else can you subscribe to a papyrological journal for $35? (Or $16 if you are a student!)
To become a member, simply go to:
and click on the membership button.
Memberships also go to support the Society’s other activities, for which see the blurb below.
With best wishes to you all,
William Johnson
Secretary-Treasurer, American Society of Papyrologists

Honoring the Son: New Book Out Now

A two-week holiday break (in Canada) and subsequent illness has meant stillness on this blog site (but maybe that’s not all bad!).  More medical tests today, but a short note on my latest book:  Honoring the Son:  Jesus in Earliest Christian Devotional Practice (Lexham Press).  The publisher’s online catalog entry here.

This small volume (68 pp) is intended for a wide spectrum of readers, and I attempt to summarize some of the main historical points that I’ve tried to make over the past 30 years or so.

Summer Break

I’m off on holidays for a couple of weeks, and I don’t plan to blog during that time.  So, nothing over the next couple of weeks (likely).  Silence doesn’t mean I’m ill.  Just being reasonable.

Further Comment on the Mark Fragment and the Rumors

There is now a further news release from the Egypt Exploration Society about the recently published fragment of the Gospel of Mark.  It responds to some of the rumors circulating, and corrects certain of them.  See here, the second item on the page.

A Plea for Round-Table Discussion, not Debates

My posting about the publication of the interestingly early fragment of GMark elicited a number of comments, a few of which caused me to wonder about the persons writing them.  One, for example, citing the erroneous claims of a first-century fragment of GMark made in some public fora over the last couple of years, kept alleging these were lies and the speakers liars.

I won’t publish the comment.  For one thing the language of “lying”, “liars” would, in a good many courts, likely be deemed libel.  And if I published the comment I could be judged complicit in the libel.  But also, how does somebody who simply repeats what they’ve been told become thereby a liar?

This kind of vituperation clearly reflects an aspect of what is now called the “culture wars” afflicting the USA.  People on both sides of what they see as the chasm of differences  give no quarter to the other side.  It’s not quite (yet) as crazy as Northern Ireland during the “troubles” in the 70s-80s, but the analogy does come to mind, as far as mindsets are concerned.  North of the 49th parallel and on this side of the Atlantic, it all seems so bizarre.

Part of the problem, I think, is that many American “Evangelicals” unthinkingly link themselves also to so-called “conservative” political and social stances (when, actually, there is no necessary connection  . . . at all).  So if someone appears to affirm some kind of traditional Christian theology, others (who espouse more “liberal/progressive” stances on the social issues) will quickly label him/her as “the enemy”.  And those espousing a “conservative” stance will likewise demonize those who take a different view.

But back to the fragment of the GMark.  The erroneous claims about the GMark fragment were sometimes made in the context of a public debate, which seems to have become a now-staple feature of what passes for scholarly discussion in some circles.  Now, I was a very successful high-school debater (top level in the National Forensic League), and I know how to debate.  But I don’t do debates on issues that are scholarly in nature.  Debating is a win/lose contest, little subtlety or complexity allowed.  It doesn’t make for the sort of careful consideration of matters that is most often required. It certainly doesn’t allow for people to grow, develop/alter their understanding of matters.

Why not, instead, have round-table discussions, in which participants of various points of view could air their position, and engage more in dialogue with those of other views?  A round-table (if properly run) allows people to talk to those of other viewpoints.  There’s no win or lose, just an effort to try to understand one another, and, hopefully, clarify issues.  Participants can remain in disagreement thereafter, but a round-table ought to encourage respect (essential) for others, and careful presentations of viewpoints.

Just a thought.


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