Category Archives: Publications and Papers

on Christian Unity (webcast with @Enegerion)

Introduction:

Christian Unity Party
Christian Unity Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I made the announcement earlier, but tonight I will be on a webcast discussing/debating/trashing my opponent regarding Christianity Unity. You should be able to access it directly here or via Youtube (see the bottom of this post).

But for now, I wanted to lay out my reasons/goals/inerrant understanding of why I believe in ChristiaUnity (see what I did there) and then I will lay out how I envision this. This is only a brief summation of both precepts.

Theological Reasons:

I draw my desire/need/wish for ultimate Christian unity from three specific passages:

  • John 17. That is easy enough. This is the Johannine Community’s admonition to the early Church (including some (little g)nostic elements) to strive for Unity. I’ve lost about half of you right now. Let me put it another way. This is Jesus’s prophetic call for the future of the Church, Jews such as Ebonites and Gentiles such as Platonists to come together to understand more fully who He really is.
  • Ephesians 4–5.21. This is not so easy. This is Deutero-Paul speaking in hope to a wider Church. Indeed, most of Ephesians can be read in the light of a Church universal. Ephesians 4.12–14 deals with the goal of Church unity, that of living into who Christ really is. You should notice a theme here. Both John 17 and Ephesians 4 calls us to be unified in order to understand just who Jesus Christ is. I think when the Church was unified at the Councils, we grasped this.
  • 2 Peter 3.10–15. These remonstrances and remembrances tell us that we can hasten the Day of God/Lord with our unity.

I believe Scripture leads us to an orthodoxy. Indeed, the canon itself comes about because of orthodoxy, with the NT developed by and developing orthodoxy. In other words, we do not have the NT unless we have the early creedal/baptismal formulas. We have the later creeds because of the NT.

Caveat: I believe orthodoxy is a tenet of Christianity, but does not make one a Christian. I believe orthodoxy and doctrinal unity serves as a guide to strengthen us as believers in Christ and shows us to a better understanding, a fuller understanding, of who Jesus is. Because that seems to be our ultimate goal (a union with Jesus), then a guide is needed. 

Eschatological Vision:

  • Christianity unity is not about one Church ruling everyone. It is about one body working together. I believe we can see how well it has worked in the West with pretending the Creeds could serve as a way to keep us unified in mission. We have Anabaptists and others who eschew the Creeds while many in the progressive side cast out wholesale Church History has some giant secret Roman society conspiracy theory. Many on the right do the same, trying to rely only on Scripture as if it is a biblical precept. This is not about the World Council of Churches, either. This polity would take the framework offered by Rome and the East and make use of that, significantly.
  • The goal is doctrinal in nature, but with a generous orthodoxy. Look at John and the Synoptics. While they are similar, they are just as different as they are similar. This should allow for a generous approach to a few things. Look at Paul. He has different arguments, even with himself! Again, a generous orthodoxy, built on the Creeds. As it shows in John 17 and Ephesians 4, our unity is meant to bring us closer to God and to the knowledge of who Jesus Christ really is.
  • I look at the Catholic Church with its various orders. I look at Orthodoxy with its various ethnic rites. They share a common creed and goal, but approach it differently and even, at times, understand things differently. Yet, they exist as one. Can we have more (g)nostic elements? Sure. There are many mystical elements/orders in the Catholic Church. Can we have more rational elements? Sure, look East.
  • A united Christianity is a missional Christianity. Right now, so many of us are concerned with “church growth” (i.e., congregational quantity) that we are no longer looking outward. In the United States, denominations are growing by stealing members from other denominations, all the while, Christianity as a whole in the US is shrinking. A united Christianity provides us with more than enough evangelistic traditions to actually go and do and go and preach and go and serve. Together.

That should be enough for now. I’ll see you tonight. By the way, for the live webcast, you can ask questions.

This will be the direct video link:

Timeline of Galatians from St. Irenaeus to St. Jerome

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on...
Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on the concept of just war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for this, but I want to put it out there for a few reasons.

  1. It helps me in working through this dissertation thing so I don’t have to keep notes scattered around
  2. I’m asking for your help in finding anyone I have missed.

I am writing a section on Galatians in patristic thought, limiting it it c. St. Augustine (don’t worry, the “Sts” are dropped in the official document) because St. Augustine is the one I blame for changing a few things which leads us away from being able to read  better St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

Three early Christian apologists, one of them a saint, used Galatians but did not write a commentary:

  • St. Irenaeus (130–202, Lyons (modern France)) used it against Marcion while shedding light on budding theological developments, such as Mariology and atonement.
  • Tertullian (160–220, Carthage, northwestern Africa) uses it heavily against Marcion mainly because Marcion saw Galatians as the premier charter for his Christianity. I think Tertullian’s skills as a debater are masterful, and indeed he was a wonderful master debater as he allows Marcion is almost right in some of his interpretation but reminds the gnostic fellow St. Paul was among the Apostles and never separated, so to force a separation between them or between them and Abraham is to read it wrongly.
  • Clement of Alexandria (150–215, from Alexandria (Egypt)) uses Galatians only briefly to chide Marcion, but includes Valentinus as well. Clement, a wonder mind, uses Galatians to construct ethical behavior, argue that sex is allowable, and to place Greco-Roman philosophy on par with the Law of Moses, which is to say, they both led to Christ, who is the summation of both right philosophy and the Law.

You will note these three, while existing in three different geographical areas, all wrote concurrently.

Origen (182–254) is the first to write a commentary, but it is lost.

There are four commentaries, two by Church Fathers, one unknown, and one by a new convert, likewise coming to be around the same time.

  • St. Jerome (347–420) composes one (I haven’t read it yet, but early research says he preserves a lot of Origen’s commentary in his own).
  • St. Augustine (354–430)
  • Gaius Marius Victorinus, late 4th century. He converted c355, carrying with him his neoplatonic roots, something we see during this time.
  • Ambrosiaster (c.366–384). No one knows who wrote it, with it originally attributed to St. Ambrose.

I’ll post the unedited section later, when I am finished summarizing the commentaries.

is Galatians written against the Roman imperial cult?

What follows is an unedited portion of my dissertation. In the larger context, I am trying to establish that the particular image for the death of Christ would have been known by the people(s) of Galatia. In the end, I believe the image would have been, but the use of an image does not mean St. Paul was writing against the image, rather, like others, he was using the image familiar to others — an image that carried significant weight. Admittedly, I am more surprised over the connection between Galatians and the Celts, not the mention human sacrifice. 

The Pergamon Altar in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin
The Pergamon Altar in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recent Scholarship on The Imperial Cult and Galatians

With the act of the devotio seemingly drawn from Roman sources, it behooves me to mention the current state of scholarship around the imperial cult and the Epistle to the Galatians. While I will not pass judgment on the rise and use of Empire as a lens in reading the New Testament, mainly in American scholarship, one must remember the use of an image found in other cults does not mean Paul is using it to counter or otherwise overtake he previous cult. While devotio as an image is one primarily associated with Roman imperial ideology, I maintain this does not mean Paul used it as an argument against Rome. However, it is necessary to examine recent scholarship, if for nothing else but to show Paul’s audience would have at least known the religious and political implications of the image.

In the recent decade, there have been two major works examining the connection of the imperial cult to the epistle. The first is Galatians Re-Imagined by Brigitte Kahl, a work removing the Judaism of Paul’s opponents, replacing it with a juxtapose against Roman views of law and order.[1] The second work, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, sees the argument of Galatians something akin to a civic rebellion.[2] Rather than delve into the merits and conclusions of their argument, I will examine their evidences of the imperial cult with the corollary that context does not mean argument, rather only serves as an allowance for the use of known images.

Kahl avoids the distinction between North and South as the province of the letter, going much further and connecting it to the whole of the Gaul-Galatia bloodline. She bases this on history as well as the linguistic plight in not separating the Gauls inhabiting the area now known as France and the descendants of the Celtic diaspora occupying an area in Asia Minor as well as a post-Constantinian interpretative strategy she abhors. After promoting her view by using binaries and other linguistic turns, Kahl finally delves into re-imagining Galatians. She removes the Jewish ethnocentrism that is the usual exegetical framework only to replace it with the visual images of the Great Altar of Pergamon.[3] Because of this, she is able to then compare each statement by Paul against Roman images of somewhat equal standing. For instance, God is juxtaposed against the Emperor while the freedom promised by the Gospel is contrasted with Roman (and not Jewish) law. Of course, as usual with Empire critics, “gospel” becomes solely the answer to the Emperor’s news of victory. Kahl adds to the discussion of the possible imperial cult in Galatians only what we already know, that as a Roman province, it was prevalent; however, she does add the ability to see cultic images in Galatians, even if the caol áit are too thin.

One particular image is the use of gladiatorial games as a form of human sacrifice. As often is the case, Kahl begins with the Great Altar where the images of human sacrifice are explicit and then moves to Galatians. She notes the arena is bereft of the usual connotations of ritual sacrifice such as the absence of priests and the need for the community to be reconciled with the deities. However, what are present are segregated spaces, a well-regulated public stage, mythological overtones of blood, and the act of a sacrifice meant to bind the community together. She notes, “the games can be seen to have a cathartic effect by vicariously eliminating violence and evil dwelling not only outside but also inside the social body, for example, in terms of slave or gladiatorial rebellions, treachery, and civil wars (emphasis mine).”[4] The battle becomes a sacrifice to purify the community of violence, reuniting the community after a struggle. That the Galatians were not foreign to human sacrifice is forever recorded by Diodorus.[5] The act of human sacrifice had become abhorrent to the Romans, but was still welcomed and proclaimed among the Galatians.[6]

Justin K. Hardin’s work fleshes the imperial cult out, adding another dimension. Hardin writes, “It is clear that often the public worship of the emperor, rather than supplanting the local pagan religions in the Greek East, was simply amalgamated with it.”[7] Galatia was a unique province within the Roman Empire. Augustus colonized both north and south, although the southern portion of the province required quelling (c. 5 BCE).[8] Because of this, unlike other Greek ruling cults brought in with various new rulers, the Roman imperial cult began by Augustus, moved into all realm of the public and private life exactly because it was designed too.[9] It “superseded traditional religious worship with a uniform system of religious devotion” binding the colonized lands with the Emperor, rather than other forms of Roman religion. While the people inhabiting the province of Galatia had long roots back to Gaul, with those roots transporting and preserving their native religion, their indigenous deities and temples were replaced (at least in importance) with the Roman ritualistic caste. For instance, Pessinus, while often thought to be the temple of Cybele (who will factor into our discussion later) is devoted instead to the Roman cult.[10] While this substitution took place, the people of the province were able to avoid assimilation. Even at the Pessinus temple, Celtic priests still performed rituals making use of both Rome and indigenous cultic aspects.[11]

While both Kahl and Hardin go one to reinterpret Galatians in light of the surrounding, provincial, imperial cult they see, they both fail to make use of the non-assimilationist stance held by the non-Jewish population of Galatia. If the native religion could prevent assimilation, then it is more than likely the Jews (with their imperial protection) would not feel the overall pressure as both Kahl and Hardin suggest they do, even a new sect within Judaism. However, what both show is that the imperial cultic images were prevalent in Galatia while not acting as a major threat and at times were themselves transformed to aid the local religion. This allowed other images to be used in dialogic currency. Further, while Hardin does not focus on it, Kahl does mention the very visual presence of human sacrifice in the public arena, and it is a sacrifice used for both civic and cultic binding. Finally, neither sees the death of Christ as any particular theological or ideological turn in Paul’s letter. It is imply another part.

[1] Brigitte Kahl, Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading With the Eyes of the Vanquished (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010).

[2] Justin K. Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult: A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul’s Letter (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008).

[3] For instance, Kahl attempts to compare Paul’s prologue (Galatians 1.1–9) with the physical image of the Great Altar (246–47). It is based on the imagery of war and wrestling.

[4] Kahl, Re-imagining Galatians, 163.

[5] Kahl connects the human sacrifices of the Gauls/Galatians to the sacrificial act of sacking Rome as well as the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi (42–3). Of a particular note is the sacrifice of a Galatian man and woman (as well as Greek pairing) twice in Rome during the Second Punic War in a devotio meant to save the city from devastation. Hannibal, the threat to Rome, never managed to sack Rome, but would soon find Carthage itself sacrificed to the gods in the place of Rome. See James Smith Reid, “Human Sacrifices at Rome and Other Notes on Roman Religion,” in Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 2. (1912), 34­–52 and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi, “The Specters of Roman Imperialism:The Live Burials of Gaulsand Greeks at Rome,” Classical Antiquity. Vol. 26. (2007), 277–304.

[6] Kahl suggests Nero reenacted the return to human sacrifice on behalf of easing social tension and creating a new social order (or city, in this case) when he charged the Christians with setting Rome on fire (296).

[7] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 40. Unlike either the Roman imperial cult or the indigenous Celtic cults, Judaism was not local, but rather focused back to Jerusalem.

[8] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 49, 56.

[9] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 47.

[10] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 41. See also Marc Waelkens, “The Imperial Sanctuary at Pessinus: Archaeological, Epigraphical and Numismatic Evidence for Its Date and Identification.” Epigraphcia Anatolica, Vol 7 1986, 37–72; and, John Devreker, Thoen Hugo, and Vermeulen Frank, “The Imperial Sanctuary at Pessinus and its Predecessors: A Revision.” Anatolia Antiqua, Tome 3, 1995. 125-144.

[11] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 69. Hardin mentions the use of sacrifices performed by the priests, much as Kahl above. What not as clear as Kahl, Hardin notes that the Temple had as part of its complex a Roman-style arena. These priests would provide gladiatorial games and other hecatombs during their tenure, allowing the priest to offer sacrifices that combined civic and cultic intents. See Stephen Mitchell, “Galatia under Tiberius,” Chiron, Vol 16., 1986, 17–33.

SBL 2014 Interviews

SBL 2014 was great and I had the opportunity to interview three scholars for MAP.

Dr. Yael Avrahami is the author of the award-winning book Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible. In our discussion, she addresses why the 5 senses alone don’t hold up in the epistemologies of the Hebrew Bible. Yael is also one of the creators of Hendrickson’s new Reader’s Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Bob Bascom is a Hebrew Bible scholar and Bible translator. Bob is a friend who has taught me a lot about life and love. Literally. He’s a cognitive linguist who can tell you about love in the brain and what kind of love it is. And he does here in the interview.

Dr. Chip Hardy has recently completed his PhD at the University of Chicago on the diachronic development of biblical Hebrew prepositions. In our discussion, he lays out the basic principles of grammaticalization theory.

@dageshforte

 

Judges 5.2

A bit ago, David M. posted a question about Judges 5.2 on Facebook. As you know, I am currently researching a “unique” view of the death of Christ so when I read this, it immediately jumped out to me as something I could use. Judges 5.2 is set within a larger poem detailing the victory of Deborah when she was a judge in Israel. It is a very old portion of the Hebrew Bible, among the oldest some scholars believe.

The Hebrew (into English) reads,

‘For the leaders, the leaders in Israel, for the people who answered the call, bless the Lord. (REB)

While the the LXX(b) reads,

A revelation was uncovered in Israel when the people ignorantly sinned: praise the Lord!

Ἀπεκαλύφθη ἀποκάλυμμα ἐν Ἰσραήλ· ἐν τῷ ἀκουσιασθῆναι λαὸν εὐλογεῖτε Κύριον.

The key word in the LXX is:

ἀκουσιάζομαι

Going further, the word is used in Numbers 15.28 (LXX):

Hebrew Alignment1

שׁגגcommit error unintentionally (1): Nu 15:28

נדבoffer willingly (1): Judg 5:2G

Numbers 15.28 in the Hebrew (via REB English) and then in the LXX (and LS English):

and the priest will make expiation before the Lord for that person, who will then be forgiven.

….

Then the priest will make atonement for the person who inadvertently sinned and erred involuntarily before the Lord, to make atonement for him.

καὶ ἐξιλάσεται ὁ ἱερεὺς περὶ τῆς ψυχῆς τῆς ἀκουσιασθείσης καὶ ἁμαρτούσης ἀκουσίως ἔναντι Κυρίου, ἐξιλάσασθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ.

The key word, ἀκουσιάζομαι, is connected to the sin in ignorance found in Numbers 15.28 as well as the Greek words ἀκουσίως and ἀκούσιος also in Numbers 15.24-28. This section enumerates the required sacrifices for those, individual and congregation, who have committed a sin that could not be helped (either through ignorance or against their will). As I read this passage, I do not see a heavy line drawn through the different words, but rather seem them as synonyms.

Let me show you why I think they are all related, if not simply complimentary:

septuagint logos lexicon numbers 15.24-28

So, here is my thinking about Judges 5.2 LXX(b). The march to war, which required soldiers to volunteer themselves (to die), was a sin (albeit one of ignorance/against the will/necessary) because it involved the sacrifice of the person to the deity. However, because it was required, it was forgiven and rather celebrated. Because of the (self-)sacrifice of the soldiers, God awarded Israel victory. In Rome, you’d call this a devotio. In LXX Israel, you call it a revelation.

  1. Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint