Paul’s “Works of the Law” in the Perspective of Second Century Reception, by Matthew J. Thomas – A Review

Easily the most important work in Pauline Studies, and likely in Biblical Studies as a whole, of the current decade is Matthew Thomas’ published Oxford dissertation, Paul’s “Works of the Law” in the Perspective of Second Century Reception. This book is not merely an entry into the ongoing discussion of various perspectives on St. Paul’s understanding of salvation and relationship to Judaism. Thomas bridges the fields of New Testament studies and patristics to deliver what may be a definitive blow to the Lutheran, and thereby typical Protestant reading of St. Paul. As a published dissertation with minimal editing, this book is written in academic form and makes its arguments in academic fashion. If one follows through on the threads here‚Ķ

When and Where Was Revelation Written?

In the previous post, Eusebius of Caesarea’s attempt to divide out a second “Elder John” other than St. John the son of Zebedee was discussed.¬† He confabulated this figure in order to be able to utilize early patristic testimony to St. John, son of Zebedee as the author of the Gospel and First Epistle while rejecting the same testimony regarding the authorship of Revelation.¬† This despite the fathers in question making no such distinction between two Johns.¬† Despite St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. John’s spiritual grandson, giving the date and place of its composition, in recent times the date, in particular, has been called into question by proponents of certain eschatological schemes (primarily forms of preterism) originating in Calvinist theological‚Ķ

John the Presbyter: Eusebius’ Imaginary Friend

Many common staples of modern Biblical scholarship of the 20th century are complicated edifices built on some small mention in a Patristic source or other early Christian writers. St. Jerome’s reference to an ancient tradition regarding Ezra led to a generations-long rabbit trail in Torah criticism. The existence of a sayings Gospel known as ‘Q’ has not only been hypothesized but “reconstructed” into a critical edition based on Eusebius of Caesarea stating that St. Matthew, before completing his Gospel, compiled the ‘logia‘ of Christ in an orderly way.¬† Another of these constructs also stems from the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea: “John the Elder.” In this case, however, modern scholars have not picked up on some small mention and run‚Ķ

The Magnificat

In the previous post, the visit of the Theotokos to St. Elizabeth was discussed with particular reference to St. Luke’s use of the Old Testament within the narrative to communicate a further depth and context to what is otherwise a reasonably simple event.¬† This post will continue the narrative, particularly addressing the song of the Theotokos, the Magnificat, which would become the Ninth Biblical Ode. Luke 1:46: Verse 46 begins the Magnificat proper. the Theotokos’ response to receiving the sign of St. Elizabeth‚Äôs pregnancy and her prophetic testimony is to issue forth this prophetic song, which stands in parallel, as already mentioned, to the pattern within the Old Testament of biblical odes following great acts of deliverance by God in‚Ķ

Sts. Mary and Elizabeth

The visit of St. Mary, the Theotokos, to St. Elizabeth in Luke 1:39‚Äď56 serves as the setting for the song of the Theotokos known as the Magnificat.¬† This title is the first word of the hymn in Latin translation, which begins, ‚ÄúMagnificat anima mea Dominum‚Ķ‚Ä̬† Both St. Elizabeth‚Äôs greeting to the Theotokos upon her arrival, and the subsequent hymn, are steeped in Old Testament allusion and imagery. Much of St. Luke‚Äôs Gospel is redolent with such connections to the Old Testament, in particular to the text in Greek translation, and other associated Jewish literature in Greek. These connections and parallels to the Old Testament are particularly concentrated in the early chapters of the Gospel. Both St. Elizabeth‚Äôs greeting and the‚Ķ

Two Lukes Two

As described briefly in the previous post, there are at least two ancient versions of St. Luke’s Gospel that emerge from the fog of the early decades of Christianity into the light of the mid-second century side by side.¬† This post will describe three of the most interesting variations between these two versions of St. Luke’s Gospel and what they reveal about their respective texts.¬† These two versions of St. Luke’s Gospel are accompanied by two different versions of the Acts of the Apostles which differ from each other by roughly 8-10 percent.¬† The vast majority of these variations in Acts are merely the result of more elaborate descriptive language in the various narratives.¬† At least some of the variants‚Ķ

The Two Lukes

The idea of the “original text” of the Scriptures is a mirage.¬† Instead, the Scriptures which make up the Christian Old and New Testaments represent a rich and diverse set of textual traditions.¬† There has been a long history, when it comes to the nearly 6,000 New Testament manuscripts currently known to the scholarly world, of categorizing these texts according to geographical determines based on where they were found.¬† This has produced the language of ‘text families’.¬† Older works of textual criticism and study, and even some newer ones, make frequent reference to Byzantine, Alexandrian, Caesarean, and Western texts.¬† Recent computer-based research has, in general, relativized if not invalidated these distinctions.¬† Essentially, it is now being demonstrated that all of‚Ķ

The Imaginary “Original Text”

While the Church has always held that the Scriptures are free from error, within the realm of (particularly American) Protestantism, the concept of the inerrancy of the Scriptures came to take on a particularly pointed character in the late 19th and early 2oth centuries.  Having posited the idea of Sola Scriptura, that the Scriptures would be, for Protestant communities, the sole infallible rule of faith and life, modern modes of textual criticism became a threat to the entirety of traditional Protestant doctrine.  While many conservative Protestant scholars have engaged, to varying degrees, with critical methodology, the defining aspect of their doctrinal conservativism for the past century and a half has been the affirmation that the Scriptures are free from error…

St. Stephen and the Glorification of Humanity

The story of St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons and the first martyr for Christ told in Acts 6-7 is important for a number of reasons.¬† The formation of the diaconate gives important information regarding both the forms of church leadership at its earliest stage and the understanding of that leadership’s continuity with that of the old covenant assembly.¬† St. Stephen’s sermon given as both an apologia and as a gospel presentation reflects the way in which Second Temple traditions surrounding the Hebrew Scriptures were understood by the earliest Christians to be authoritative in understanding those Scriptures.¬† The role played in his death by Saul of Tarsus, soon to become St. Paul, reveals the depth of the transformation‚Ķ

Zealotry and the Priesthood

The priesthood was, in the Old Testament, generally seized in its initial stages by force.  It comes as a reward for manslaughter.  This is a simple fact that confronts any careful reader of the Old Testament in general and the Torah in particular.  This truth produced an entire tradition of zealotry within the Old Testament that continued into the New Testament period.  Simply defined, zealotry in this context is the idea that acts of violence, even the killing of other human persons, are not only allowed but required in defense of that which is holy and pure.  This idea has been (wrongly) appealed to and applied throughout Christian history to defend everything from the inquisition to the crusades to witch-hunting. …