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New Online-Access Journal

January 4, 2016

There is a recently-launched online and open-access journal that looks very promising, to judge from the most recent issue:  Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting, From the First to the Seventh Century.  The online link is here.

This issue (issue 2, 2015) includes an informative article by Brent Nongbri, “The Concept of Religion and the Study of the Apostle Paul,” which draws upon Nongbri’s book: Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), in which he shows that the modern notion of “religion” is of relatively recent vintage.  In his recent article, Nongbri applies this to the study of Paul, offering criticism of what appear to be insufficiently considered applications of this concept to Paul.

Richard Ascough’s article, “Paul, Synagogues and Associations:  Reframing the Question of Models for Pauline Christ Groups,”  draws upon his own extensive work on “voluntary associations” in the ancient Roman period.  Ascough proposes that “associations” should serve as the umbrella cateagory, under which various sub-types can be placed, one of those sub-types being Pauline congregations.

Ralph J. Korner (“Ekklesia as a Jewish Synagogue Term: Some Implications for Paul’s Socio-Religious Location”) shows that “ekklesia” was sometimes used to designate a “synagogue” of Jews, and proposes that this affects how we understand Paul’s use of the term.  It wasn’t simply a term used for the assembly of a city, but also had the possibility of this more specifically Jewish connotation.

William S. Campbell (“‘A Remnant of Them Will be Saved’ (Rom 9:27):  Understanding Paul’s Conception of the Faithfulness of God to Israel”) lays out an extended case for the view that Paul retained a strong belief in the ultimate salvation of his ancestral people.

Thomas Wayment & Matthew J. Grey (“Jesus Followers in Pompeii:  The Christianos Graffito and the ‘Hotel of the Christians’ Reconsidered”) offer a fresh analysis of a graffito reportedly found in the mid-19th century in Pompeii, and critically assess scholarship on it and the building in which it was found.  The graffito has been widely doubted as evidence of Christians in Pompeii (which means earlier than the destruction of the town in 79 AD).  Wayment and Grey contend that the graffito is a valid reference to Christians, however, and note that it is entirely plausible that Christians were in Pompeii, given references in Acts to Christians in Rome and Puteoli by the 60s.

Among the other contributions to this issue is Miriam DeCock’s review-essay on Daniel Boyarin’s book, The Jewish Gospels:  The Story of the Jewish Christ.  DeCock lodges what I judge to be telling criticisms of the book.

The editor, Anders Runesson, and his editorial board are to be congratulated for launching and managing this new journal.  I have long contended that online journals were the wave of the future, and I hope that this venture succeeds.



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  1. Jihe Song permalink

    Dear Professor Hurtado,

    Thank you very much for posting.

    I was hoping to find out if there are anyone editorial members who are Messianic Jews. Do you know anyone from this Journal who is, or indeed, any theological academic who is?

    Kind regards,

    Jihe Song

    • I don’t know about the religious affiliation/stance of contributors. We usually don’t ask about such matters in academic journals. Instead, we simply consider arguments, evidence, etc.

  2. Timothy Joseph permalink

    Dr. H,

    Thanks for the heads up on this journal!
    However, the article by Brent Nongbri that argues for setting aside religion in our study of Paul, in particular, and Christianity in general, was less than persuasive in my opinion. His description of the various recipients of Paul’s letters as only tangentially associated with Paul’s stated beliefs is not sustainable. Nongbri seems to be arguing that Christianity was not diverse but actually non-existent.

    Nongbri, has made a name for himself as a contrarian in New Testament Scholar, as evidenced by his articles on NT Papyri dating have shown. So, I don’t find anything in this article surprising.


    • Timothy,
      I think you misconstrue Nongbri’s point, which is that our modern concept of “religion” as some activity or affilation conceptually separate from other areas of life is foreign to the ancient world, and so dangerous to apply to Paul. I would, however, add that in my view the trans-ethnic nature of early Christianity combined with its exclusivity comprised a novel phenomenon, a very different kind of “religious” option, and could be seen as the introduction of a new kind of “religious identity.”

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