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“Trajectories” and “Interactive Diversity”

June 21, 2013

I’ve just received notice that my article, “Interactive Diversity:  A Proposed Model of Christian Origins,” has been published in Journal of Theological Studies.  The online version is available now, the paper-print form to appear in the next print issue of the journal.

In the article, I consider the strengths and weaknesses of the “trajectories” model of early Christianity proposed influentially by James Robinson & Helmut Koester, and propose what I consider a superior model:  “Interactive Diversity”.  The core problem with the trajectory-model is that it does not adequately reflect the complexity and interaction of various forces and versions/voices of earliest Christianity, oversimplying things.  It rightly represents a recognition that there was significant diversity and also development, but I don’t think the model sufficiently reflects the complexity involved.

Moreover, I think examples of its application show that it can work mischief, later supposed stages of a trajectory used to interpret supposedly earlier stages.  Whereas, the question begged is whether the phenomena in question really are part of some connected, essentially uni-linear development at all.  And is it methodologically sound to construct such a hypothetical trajectory and then interpret earlier phenomena through later ones?

“Interactive Diversity” probably isn’t as catchy as “trajectory,” but I try to show why we need a model that takes account of the diversity of early Christianity and also the complex interaction of that diversity.  I offer such a model that I hope may stimulate further discussion and perhaps correct and enhance our perception of this fascinating period of Christianity.

Oxford University Press (the publisher of JTS) now kindly allow authors to post the link to the online version of their published articles.  So, if you’re interested, you can read the html version of my article here.

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  1. Jeff Peterson permalink

    Many thanks for posting this very suggestive and helpful piece. Someone should pull themselves together and do a really good book on this sort of thing!

  2. Jeff Peterson permalink


    This is where the link at the bottom of your blogpost takes me: Subscription required.

    I look forward to reading the piece.


    • Hmm. Sorry, Jeff. I understood that the link was supposed to work (but only via my site). I’ve now uploaded the pre-publication version (under the “Selected Published Essays” tab), if that’s of any help.

  3. Larry, Thank you for this clear and informative article. Your work continues to inspire me. Peace to you, Michael

  4. They may kindly allow you to post a link, but in order to actually read it, one requires a subscription to JTS, and furthermore, a subscription that doesn’t have a 12 month time embargo on articles. Even when I logged in through my library, it told me that I would need to pay $25 to be able to view it for one day!!! This makes me very sad, as it sounds as though it would be relevant to something I am currently writing.

    • Judy, I don’t understand why you have this problem. The link provided is supposed to enable direct access to the HTML of the article, and works for me (and for the many others who have tried it I presume). Ensure that you use the full link as given in my posting.

      • Joao Silva permalink

        Hello, with happens the same thing: I can’t read your article.
        Best regards, João

      • Are you clicking on the link in my posting? You must go via my blog-site, and not by pasting the URL into your browser. I see that nearly 50 people have gone to the article link, but I’ve had only a couple of complaints about not being able to access it.

  5. Lovely refinement of the ‘trajectories’ model — the benefits of acknowledging diversity without the drawbacks of ideologies/theologies that change only on their own, isolated vector of development. Thanks, Larry.

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