St. Vincent of Lerins on Development of Faith (Orthodoxy) v. Alteration

Thomas Oden looks to St. Vincent as a way to give rebirth to orthodoxy. I would like to explore St. Vincent and Clement of Alexandria’s focus on the true Gnostic. For now, here is St. Vincent:

A simplified chart of historical developments ...

A simplified chart of historical developments of major groups within Christianity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there to be no development of religion in the Church of Christ? Certainly, there is to be development and on the largest scale. Who can be so grudging to men, so full of hate for God, as to try to prevent it? But it must truly be development of the Faith, not alteration of the Faith. Development means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing into another. The understanding, knowledge and wisdom of one and all, of individuals as well as of the whole Church, ought then to make great and vigorous progress with the passing of the ages and the centuries, but only along its own line of development, that is, with the same doctrine, the same meaning and the same import.

The religion of souls should follow the law of development of bodies. Though bodies develop and unfold their component parts with the passing of the years, they always remain what they were. There is a great difference between the flower of childhood and the maturity of age, but those who become old are the very same people who were once young. Though the condition and appearance of one and the same individual may change, it is one and the same nature, one and the same person … If, however, the human form were to turn into some shape that did not belong to its own nature, or even if something were added to the sum of its members or subtracted from it, the whole body would necessarily perish or become grotesque or at least be enfeebled. In the same way, the doctrine of the Christian religion should properly follow these laws of development, that is, by becoming firmer over the years, more ample in the course of time, more exalted as it advances in age. In ancient times our ancestors sowed the good seed in the harvest field of the Church. It would be very wrong and unfitting if we, their descendants, were to reap, not the genuine wheat of truth but the intrusive growth of error. On the contrary, what is right and fitting is this: there should be no inconsistency between first and last, but we should reap true doctrine from the growth of true teaching, so that when, in the course of time, those first sowings yield an increase it may flourish and be tended in our day also.1

  1. St Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium 23.28–30: ed. R.S. Moxon (Cambridge, 1915), pp. 88–92.

Call for Papers: Weaponizing Scripture

Weaponizing Scripture?

Second Annual Graduate Student Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation and Practice

March 22nd-23rd, 2015 at the University of Virginia

The 2015 Graduate Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice welcomes submissions of original research from graduate students on the topic “Weaponizing Scripture?”

Religious communities have frequently appealed to their scriptures in contexts of conflict. Sacred texts play a role in defining communal boundaries and in furthering their own formative and institutional goals. Conversely, individuals and groups who are antagonistic towards particular traditions deploy those traditions’ scriptures against them. Political and military leaders, resistance movements, and minority groups may all cite scripture as a warrant for action. The Word(s) of God can even be portrayed as a weapon itself.

This conference, then, will explore cases, both historical and contemporary, in which scripture serves as a resource for/against the communities that are formed by it, as well as how it is instrumentalized for formational, popular, political, and/or polemical agendas. It further seeks to uncover ways that scripture transforms the character of the debates and purposes for which it is deployed. Accordingly, papers could examine such cases intra-traditionally, ecumenically, inter-religiously, or between religious and secular spheres.

We seek participants who will address this topic from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives — historical, legal, theological, hermeneutic, ethical, political, and more. The following list is meant to be suggestive of topics rather than provide categories and is therefore not exhaustive:

  • How is scripture a resource and/or an instrument in the following contexts?:
    • in social/political movements (Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Abolition, The Civil Rights Movement, Latin American Base Communities, Islamism, the Christian Right/Left, and so on)
    • within political and/or everyday speech
    • as warrant for
      • religious or political ideological stances, including secular ones
      • violence and war
      • non-violent action
      • social justice/activism
    • within religious traditions
      • as a means of formation, or as a means of inclusion or exclusion
      • in doctrinal arguments (classical or contemporary)
      • towards the reform of traditions and religious sects, or the formation of religious institutions institutionalization
  • Phenomena such as:
    • Portrayal of weapons in scripture, including depictions of scripture itself as a weapon
    • scriptural commentary, scriptural reading strategies, scripture interpreting scripture, rewritten scripture
    • religious groups/movements defined by a specific scripture or set of scriptures
  • Philosophical questions:
    • What is the place of scripture in nurturing our religious traditions?
    • What does it mean when a political leader cites scripture as warrant for a military action?
    • Is there a difference between scripture used as a warrant for a specific action verse scripture used as a means of forming particular communities?
    • Does scripture function as a warrant within communities?

Plenary Speaker: Dr. Sohail Nakhooda

Dr. Nakhooda is a scholar of both Islamic and Christian traditions, who, as senior advisor to the current Libyan ambassador to the UAE, played a significant role in the recent Libyan revolution. He is Co­-Leader of the Islamic Analytic Theology project at Kalam Research & Media (KRM) in the UAE, in association with the John Templeton Foundation. During the Libyan revolution he worked as Secretary of the Libya Stabilization Team and also with the Support Offices of the Executive Team of the National Transitional Council of Libya. He was also former advisor to HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; a Junior Fellow of the Royal Aal Al­Bayt Institute; and Founder and former Editor-­in­-Chief of the award­winning Islamica Magazine. We have sought him out because he provides us a unique window into the role of scripture both within religious tradition and in the political and even military spheres.

Proposals in the form of a 250-word abstract should be emailed to by January 15th, 2014. Acceptance notifications will be sent out by February 5rd, 2014. Final papers, not to exceed 2000 words, must be submitted by March 14rd, 2014. For up-to-date information please check out our website:

We are grateful for the financial support provided by the following sponsors:

Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life; Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University; Project on Lived Theology; Society for Scriptural Reasoning; Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures; Office of Diversity and Equity; Department of Religious Studies; Virginia Center for the Study of Religion

Islamic Iman Leads U.S. House of Representative Prayer. #whynot

I’ve been thinking about this and have been asking the question “why not?” There are a few things to consider here:

Watch here

  • Is this or is this not a “freedom of religion” believing country?
  • Why are Christians only the ones to be blamed for America’s secularism?
  • Isn’t the text of the Islamic Iman’s prayer a text that even a Christian or a Jew wouldn’t volunteer an hearty “amen”?

I cannot picture Moses, performing miracles in Pharaoh’s Court, using his staff, and then, when Pharaoh summons his magicians to perform the same miracles Moses was performing, that Moses would have said “no, I won’t accept this challenge… I can only accept miracles performed in the name of MY God, Jehovah”. No! Moses not only accepted the challenge but his staff-now-turned-into-snake consumed, devoured, ate, Pharaoh’s magicians staff-now-turned-into-snakes! Christians should not be afraid of any challenge from any other religion! We have to believe that God will prevail, and that our beliefs will surpass, metaphorically “eat” everyone else’s belief; otherwise we are nothing but religious weaklings, whiners and phonies! Jesus never shunned a challenge either! Let Muslims do what they do in between killings and beheadings, and let us as Christians do what we do in confidence that God will see us through as winners… In this the infamous Charismatic TV preacher is right: “I read the end of the book: We win!”

Review of @OUPAcademic’s “Jewish Study Bible, 2nd Edition”

The (now) first Jewish Study Bible (JSB) was a major breakthrough in establishing a critical, yet faithful, study system for the Jewish canon (for Protestants, the Old Testament). It brought to the table both modern research as well as rabbinical sayings, easily competing with other critical study bibles not only for attention but for depth and clarity. It has been my go-to bible for much of my study in the Jewish Scriptures. Not bad for an “experiment” (as the editors call the first edition) and a winner of the National Jewish Book Award (2004). With the second edition (again edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler), what was good before is now great. I simply have no other words to describe it.

The barebones of the JSB has remained the same. The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) 1985 translation has remained the same. The introductions to the books of bible are virtually unchanged, but the notes have been revised. According to the second edition’s preface, “over one-third” is new. This means we have updated scholarship, new voices, and more importantly in this last category, new voices that include women and Israeli scholars. In the first edition, some essays are simply revised essays from the New Oxford Annotated Bible, but in this one, the editors sought completely new essays on the same topics while asking for revisions of previous ones. Likewise, new essays are added — such as the additions of  “Reading Biblical Narrative” and “Reading Biblical Law” to the stand alone essay of “Reading Biblical Poetry.”

One new essay of note is “Gender in the Bible”(2177–84) by Marc Zvi Brettler. Brettler is a co-editor of the volume, the Dora Golding Professor at Brandeis University, and the author of numerous scholarly works examining the Jewish Scriptures (including serving as co-editor on Amy Jill Levine’s The Jewish Annotated New Testament, also by Oxford). He notes the difference between “gender” (“enacted”) and “sex” (“biological”). No doubt this differentiation will concern some, but Brettler is able to show easily why it needs to be. Even a woman can share the (en)action of a man (masculinity) — and the bible’s idea of masculinity often changes based on perspective. In once sense, masculine means warrior while in another time, masculine meant a devoted student. “The diversity of models should not be surprising, since the Bible is a complex work with multiple perspectives on many issues.”

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (...

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to specific roles, Brettler breaks down the language to show that while ancient Israel and Judaism was indeed male-centric, it was not exactly patriarchal. Nor was it homogenous. Women did have specific roles, but in some portions of Scripture, women shared in roles usually thought to be the sole domain of men (for instance, Brettler points out the Nazarites and prophets). This doesn’t mean Brettler is a wild-eyed liberal, nor given to exaggeration of Scripture. His attention to the verse rather than later culturally influenced readings is made readily apparent when he explores the masculinity of God. He does, in all fairness, give time to scholars who disagree with him, but in the end maintains the explicitness of the bible. “Gender is central to one’s identity and should be immediately evident. Males should act and look like males, and females should act and look like females, and both genders should worship a masculine God” (2184). This section in particular is prefaced with a warning that “all religions…change over time” (2182). We are not told what to think, only what the facts are in determining how we think.

Each essay is based on solid scholarship that remains within the biblical realm. Of note, Jon Levinson’s introduction to Bere’shit (Genesis) ends with, “if J, E, P, and various equally anonymous sources and redactors are its human authors, nothing ensures that God is not its ultimate Author” (10).

My only issue with the bible is the cover. I am going to heavily use this one and I am fearful I will damage the white hardcover. JSB1 had a dust jacket and rough, dark colored cover. JSB2 lacks the dust jacket (thankfully) but has a white glossy cover. The quality of the book, however, is one that will last over time. The pages are thin (use an India marker) but so are most bible pages. (If this bothers you, note there is a kindle version.) JSB2 is set up a lot like JSB1, with the text in the upper portion, next to the spin, surrounded on the left/right and on the bottom by notes. Also included are the JPS 1985 translator’s notes. Throughout the various books, you will find charts and smaller maps to help guide the reader in understanding what is happening in the text and notes. Also include are full color maps like you would find in other bibles. This is a scholar’s bible, but it is a adherent’s book as well.

I have looked, but in vain, for a better study bible for those interested in engaging the Jewish Scriptures as Jewish. Granted, the Christian writings are mentioned, as are the rabbinical sages and both alongside critical scholarship. It does not exclude ecumenical inquiry, but it is the most useful when one is trying to determine how one portion of the text is seen by Jews. This is a great benefit, to be sure, to Christians and Muslims, scholars and theologians, if they are going to interpret the “Old Testament” as a Jewish document first. It is an intellectually stimulating study bible that must be on the desk of every serious student of Scripture.

@IVPAcademic/@IVPress has their own Reader’s Choice Awards

Perhaps it is because I just read a marketing letter from another publisher that was filled with fallacies, lies, and sheer stupidity, but my opinion of the House of IVP is at an all time high. They really do publish a lot of good books and a few more great ones – ranging from Evangelical to Orthodox to Catholic, etc…

This year, they are asking for nominations from among their titles for awards.

From here:

2014 was a great year for books at InterVarsity Press. Between November 2013 and October 2014, IVP published 117 new titles on topics ranging from missional living, culture making and spiritual formation to creation care, biblical theology and Christian leadership. This year we want to highlight some of our readers’ favorites with IVP’s first Readers’ Choice Awards.

We’re a bit partial to all our books and with so many to choose from, we’d really love your help in selecting this year’s Readers’ Choice nominees. List your favorite books from the past year below and we’ll select the most frequently mentioned titles as the offical nominees.

Leave us your name and email address and we’ll send you a discount on your next IVP purchase with an invitation to vote on the awards. We can’t wait to hear about your favorite books!


  • Write in up to five books in the form below
  • Only books from this list will qualify (published between November 2013 and October 2014)
  • Let us know why you’re nominating your choice (We just need a quick word or phrase about why you love this book)
  • Share this page with your friends and encourage others to nominate! (Nominating yourself or an author you know is acceptable)
  • Books with the most mentions will be selected as official nominees and we’ll call for votes to select the first Readers’ Choice Awards.
  • Nominations will close on Sunday, November 23 at 11:59pm CT.

Mine, thus far, are:

The last one is especially helpful — I received it through the Book Club — for small groups, high schoolers, and new to the bible types.

So, go and enter!

Did Wilson, et al, unwittingly reveal Morton Smith’s literary sources for the “Secret Gospel of Mark?”

Admittedly, Wilson, et al,’s book “The Lost Gospel” is a midrash of fantasy, but sometimes there are crossovers in fantasy worlds. So is the case, I speculate, between Wilson, et al, and Morton Smith.

In “The Lost Gospel,” Wilson, et al, suggests a literary connection between Joseph and Aseneth and The Secret Gospel of Mark. On the surface, and because that is all this blog post requires, it looks like a solid case. For those of us who study literary sources (mimetic criticism), the closeness is seen easily enough. Of course, we don’t have the original Secret Gospel because it was never presented. It is another “lost gospel,” I guess.

While there are some scholars who accept Smith’s testimony, there are plenty of others who do not. Those who do not suggest Smith created this forgery.

So, where did Morton Smith get his close-to-real story? Perhaps he simply invented it wholesale, the story of Jesus’s esoteric relationship with a naked young man in the Secret Gospel of Mark. But, if he took the time to design the letter in such a way as to remove himself from the picture, then he was careful enough to insure the story was similar to others, right?

I can only speculate — Smith used Joseph and Aseneth, resting on the idea as presented in Wilson, et al, and the fact that we know Smith had at least once delved significantly into Joseph and Aseneth.




This coming week… In (pre-)reviews


I intend to highlight and review these books this coming week.

I’ll update this post with links to those reviews, of course.

But, what would you like to see in these reviews?

7 Common Misconceptions About the Hebrew Bible (from @OUPAcademic)

The modern concept of history, judged by whether or not it gets the facts right, is by and large a modern conception. In the past, all peoples told stories set in the past for a variety of reasons, e.g. to entertain, to enlighten, but rarely to recreate what actually happened. Archaeologists have uncovered many cases where the biblical account disagrees with the archaeological account, or with what we might know from other ancient Near Eastern texts.

via 7 Common Misconceptions About the Hebrew Bible | OUPblog.

Next week, I will be posting excerpts and a review of the Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition. Just advance warning — you should get this bible.

Eucharist? Not bloody likely — The Gospels, Didache, Joseph and Aseneth, and Reality “#thelostgospel”

Pollen Comb of Honeybee Hive

Jewish bees? Gentile bees? If they are pollenating, one is Jesus and the other is Mary Maggie-pie. Pollen Comb of Honeybee Hive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Long before the “lost gospel” was found, Dr. Mark Goodacre had a webpage devoted to the pseudepigrapha tale. You can find it here.

In Wilson and Jacobovici’s book they declare, without regard for logic, that the story in Joseph and Aseneth 16 is the “First Holy Communion Ever.” One would think that this audacious statement would be backed up with well supported facts. One would think…

This is how chapter 16 reads,

And the man said to her, “Bring me, please, a honeycomb too.” 2. And Aseneth said, “Let me send someone my lord, to my family estate in the country and I will get you a honeycomb.” 3. And the man said to her, “Go into your inner room and you will find a honeycomb there.” 4. And Aseneth went into her inner room and found a honeycomb lying on the table; and the comb was as white as snow and full of honey, and its smell was like the breath of life. 5. And Aseneth took the comb and brought it to him; and the man said to her, “Why did you say, ‘There is no honeycomb in my house?’ And lo, you have brought me this.” 6. And Aseneth said, My lord, I had no honeycomb in my house, but it happened just as you said: did it perchance come out of your mouth, for it smells like myrrh?” 7. And the man stretched his hand out and placed it on her head and said, “You are blessed, Aseneth, for the indescribable things of God have been revealed to you; and blessed too are those who give their allegiance to the Lord God in penitence, for they shall eat of this comb. 8. The bees of the Paradise of Delight have made this honey, and the angels of God eat of it, and no one who eats of it shall ever die. 9. And the man stretched his right hand out and broke off a piece of the comb and ate it; and he put a piece of it unto Aseneth’s mouth. 10. And the man stretched his hand out and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced eastwards; and the path of his finger became like blood. 11. And he stretched out his hand a second time and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced northwards, and the path of his finger became like blood.

Now that you have read it, let me post it again with portions in bold,

And the man said to her, “Bring me, please, a honeycomb too.” 2. And Aseneth said, “Let me send someone my lord,  to my family estate in the country and I will get you a honeycomb.” 3. And the man said to her, “Go into your inner room and you will find a honeycomb there.” 4. And Aseneth went into her inner room and found a honeycomb lying on the table; and the comb was as white as snow and full of honey, and its smell was like the breath of life. 5. And Aseneth took the comb and brought it to him; and the man said to her, “Why did you say, ‘There is no honeycomb in my house?’ And lo, you have brought me this.” 6. And Aseneth said, My lord, I had no honeycomb in my house, but it happened just as you said: did it perchance come out of your mouth, for it smells like myrrh?” 7. And the man stretched his hand out and placed it on her head and said, “You are blessed, Aseneth, for the indescribable things of God have been revealed to you; and blessed too are those who give their allegiance to the Lord God in penitence, for they shall eat of this comb. 8. The bees of the Paradise of Delight  have made this honey, and the angels of God eat of it, and no one who eats of it shall ever die. 9. And the man stretched his right hand out and broke off a piece of the comb and ate it; and he put a piece of it unto Aseneth’s mouth. 10. And the man stretched his hand out and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced eastwards; and the path of his finger became like blood. 11. And he stretched out his hand a second time and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced northwards, and the path of his finger became like blood.

Let me take them in order.

  • Honeycomb is the Torah, the words of God (see Sirach 24)
  • Myrrh, is associated with the Wisdom of God, which is the Torah (See Sirach 24)
  • Shall never die – language connected to Genesis 3.22 and the honeycomb which gives life.

These three things are all connected to the Wisdom tradition of the Jewish and then the Christian people. In this tradition, Wisdom is the Torah and it is the Torah that gives eternal life. Wisdom plays a significant part in deuterocanonical literature, such as Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, as well as in Jewish mysticism and developing Christian theology. You can see this in Hebrews and John. Why are these two latter books so important? Because Wisdom becomes Jesus Christ. If Christians understand Wisdom as Christ (this is apparent in Paul as well), then it is unlikely such an imagery could get so mangled as to produced what is suggested in the “decoded” allegory. Rather, what is better sensed in chapter 16 is a conversion story where one food (or Law) is replaced by another (in this case, a pagan food for the Torah).

But, what about the sign of the cross and the eucharistic symbology? I think it is possible to see a connection there, although we may run into parallelism, which Wilson and Jacobovici have done, if we believe this language is a code. The meal imagery is easily explained as a conversion process, yet, there is a nagging parallel to Christian practices as developed late in the 4th and 5th centuries. How late? Around the time this document was no doubt written.

Possibly, there are two “liturgical” images here:

  • Eucharist
  • Sign of the cross

If you are Orthodox, you will recognize a similarity to the Epiklesis of the Divine Liturgy.  It evolved from the Apostolic Tradition usually attributed to Hippolytus (c. 215). What is most interesting is that the section on the Eucharistic prayer is commonly thought to be a later addition, perhaps even from the 4th century (albeit with earlier layers of tradition). At the time of Hippolytus, however, sign of the cross-as-invocation was still performed upon the forehead (as found in Tertullian). It wasn’t until the 5th century we begin to see the connection between signing the cross on the holy bread and the turning of that bread into the body of Christ:

With regard to other points of theology, we may note that Cyril very strongly insists on the Real Presence and on Transubstantiation, of which he gives a most accurate definition: “That which seems bread is not bread but the Body of Christ; that which seems wine is not wine but the Blood of Christ.” “It is not ordinary bread (ἄρτος λιτός), but the Body of Christ.” “As Christ changed water into wine, so does he change (μεταβάλλει) wine into his Blood.” Christians who receive holy communion become “of one Body and of one Blood with Christ” (σύσσωμοι καὶ σύναιμοι Χριστοῦ) and are “Christbearers (Χριστοφόροι).” Transubstantiation takes place, he says, “by the invocation of the Holy Ghost.”5 The holy Eucharist is a “spiritual sacrifice” and a “sacrifice of atonement.”1

Today, the rite looks like this:

(The Priest signs the Holy Bread with the sign of the Cross, saying quietly:) And make this bread the precious Body of thy Christ:

(The Priest makes the sign of the Cross, saving quietly:) And that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of thy Christ:

(The Priest makes the sign of the Cross over both the Holy Gifts, saying quietly:) Changing them by thy Holy Spirit: Amen, Amen, Amen.

Again, we are fluctuating between the 3rd and 5th century, with a date of the 4th century as probable for the inclusion of this specific invocation (over the bread, with the sign of the cross) into the liturgies of the various Sees. But, what does the first images of the Eucharist look like?

If we go to the Synoptics (no earlier than 73 with Mark), we get the image of a traditional Passover seder. Once we turn to Acts (I would place this work into the early 2nd century), the “breaking of the bread” becomes an event to celebrate the growth of the Church. However, if we turn to Paul and 1 Corinthians 11.23–26 (mid 50’s), we see a communal rite, sacred nevertheless, that is supposed to harken back to Jesus. Some could see the revelation of this rite to Paul as a spiritual vision, rather than Paul taking up an already standing tradition. It would be difficult to argue this position, as the meal was already present among the Jews, albeit with different intentions.

The earliest non-canonical detailing about the sacred meal comes from a first century document called The Didache. This preserves the Eucharist like this:

9.1 Now this is how you should engage in giving thanks, bless God in this way.
9.2 First, at the cup, say:
We give thanks to you, our Father,
for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you have made known to us.
Through Jesus, your servant, to you be glory for ever.
9.3 Then when it comes to the broken loaf say:
We give thanks to you, our Father,
for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us.
Through Jesus, your servant, to you be glory for ever.
9.4 For as the broken loaf was once scattered over the mountains and then was gathered in and became one, so may your church be gathered together into your kingdom from the very ends of the earth.
Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
9.5 Only let those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord eat and drink at your Eucharists. And remember what the Lord has said about this: do not give to dogs what is holy.

The issue with excluding the Didache has somehow preserving a “truer” (code for non-Pauline) Christianity is that we have enough textual studies between Mark and Matthew and Paul to suggest that the Didache (which used Matthew) recognized Pauline Christianity. (See here, here and here to begin correctly the view that the Didache is “Pauline free.”) Note, the Didache does not use code language, allegory, or otherwise. Unlike 4th century eucharistic rites, it doesn’t include the epiklesis or sign of the cross. Rather, follows Pauline order in the wine and the bread.

Before I leave this alone, let me decode “Pauline Christianity.” For many who use this term, it means the pro-inclusion-of-Gentiles into Israel’s covenant. Note what Jacobovici has said,

“Someone might say to me, why are you finding so many great things, why nobody else? I tell you why. Because I’m Jewish, I’m not Pauline—I don’t think inside a Christian box… I’m not a theologian, I’m not a Christian, and I see that in this world you can look at texts with fresh eyes and see new things.”

While I am not going to answer the racist undertones of that statement, let me point out the false dichotomy of such a view. Paul was Jewish. Many of the people he spoke to and wrote to were Jewish. We have scant evidence Paul was overly successful in converting Gentiles. Indeed, whereas the Epistle to the Romans was written to a Jewish and Gentile audience, Paul didn’t establish this community. To be Pauline is to be Jewish. If you look at the language in Joseph and Aseneth as liturgical and then compare it back to the earliest record of the sacred meal (1 Corinthians 11.23–26), you will even see a Pauline influence!2 But, you have to backwards read and treat it as something more than it is. But this goes further. Many in early Christianity still considered themselves Jewish, still used the synagogues, and still, alongside the Rabbis, brought to life new theology. In fact, real scholarship (usually called “the parting of the ways”) reveals a centuries-long relationship between Jews and Christians that aided both peoples. If anything, by comparing the 4th century Christian liturgical development, 2nd Temple Jewish mysticism, and the 5th century Joseph and Aseneth what could be revealed is a confluence of Jewish and Christian mysticism lasting well into Christendom.

What we should see here is the fallacy established by Wilson and Simcha, but also a chance to see either an interpolation of Christian conversion rites into a Jewish story or still yet a novella that contained Jewish-Christian mysticism recognizable to and aiding both Jews and Christians. It is not impossible the imagery of Joseph and Aseneth provided fodder for developing liturgies, or vice versa. What is impossible is to say that this mystical tale known nearly from its inception “is either lost or a gospel” (see here as well) and that it represents the earliest image of the Eucharistic celebration.

  1. Adrian Fortescue, The Greek Fathers (London; St Louis, MO: Catholic Truth Society; B. Herder, 1908), 157.
  2. Why? Because Paul was a Jewish mystic and the Christianity he left us shares an intimate relationship with Jewish mysticism!

“God can do everything, except compel man to love …” #theodicy

English: "Christ in Triumph over Darkness...

English: “Christ in Triumph over Darkness and Evil”, stained glass window by French artist Gabriel Loire in memory of Earl Mountbatten, at St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, South Africa Français : “Christ in Triumph over Darkness and Evil”, vitrail par Gabriel Loire (un mémorial pour Louis Mountbatten), à la cathédrale St. George, Le Cap, Afrique du Sud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“God can do everything, except compel man to love . . . This paradoxical impotence of God (at the creation of man), Who, of course, still remains omnipotent, already announces to us beforehand the mystery of the Cross . . . God is so omnipotent that he can suspend His omnipotence . . . There is no need for Christians to create a special theory for justifying God (theodicy). To all the questions regarding the allowance of evil by God (the problem of evil) there is one answer – Christ; the Crucified Christ, Who burns up in Himself all the world’s sufferings for ever; Christ, Who regenerates our nature and has opened the entry to the Kingdom of everlasting and full life to each one who desires it.”1

via Gospel parables, an Orthodox commentary.

  1. Oliver Clement, a French theologian, wrote an article on evil published in the issue No. 31 of the journal, Contakt.

#thelostgospel press conference Bingo game!

Tomorrow is the press conference, to coincide with the release of the book, according to Jacobovici. It will be held at the British Library’s conference center which can be rented for a nominal fee. Due to the early release of the book on Google books, Dr. Robert Cargill has reviewed the book. (See my round up and post here.)

So, in honor of the press release, I thought a little fun may be in order. Here are the bingo cards (SIMCHA BINGO – pdf download), with which we can all play “Simcha Press Conference Bingo”. The game will be fun because the card includes the go-to arguments and phrases that Simcha routinely relies upon to promote himself and attack his critics.. The best thing about this is, is that you can reuse it next Christmas/Easter when our friend has another new startling revelation to announce! 

This is just one of the cards!!!!

simcha press conference bingo