The four canonical Gospels of the New Testament were decided upon fairly early in fledgling church’s career to be the only acceptable Gospels. One scholar places the upper limit of the final dating for the four-fold Gospel Canon at around the year 150. Frederick C. Grant, The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth 13 (1983) . This is only an upper limit, and the Gospels were probably finalized much earlier; but even 150 is relatively early in church history. The Gospels necessarily had to be finished around that time: unwritten texts cannot be canonized, and the contemporary agreement of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria was that the canonicity of the four Gospels was accepted by the end of the second century. Tatian, who was writing even slightly before Irenaeus and the others also held a view of four Gospels. This hints that Justin Martyr (ca. 150) also held this view, because Tatian was his disciple. Most interestingly, however, are the clues found in the Shepherd of Hermas, which point to the four-fold Gospels as well as serving as a source for some of Irenaeus’ later ideas on the subject. The church widely regarded the Gospels as having been written by apostles or their followers rather early; and these texts were canonized quite soon after they were all written.
Category Archives: Classics
The following paper was presented by me at the Second Annual Student Religious Studies Conference put on by the Midwest Region of the Society of Biblical Literature at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. It was written in November 2007 for a classical studies course at Tulane University taught by Dr. Lawrence Lahey titled “Ancient Christianity.” The course introduced students to the history of the Ancient Christian movement within the Roman Empire. It illustrated the historical developments through the emergence of the canon of the New Testament writings from the second through the fourth centuries.
The paper views the phenomenon of Christianity through a historical lens — specifically the resulting organization that formed around this rapidly developing movement. The paper argues that the “three-fold ministry” of bishops, priests, and deacons was a later development only springing up from an earlier and more primitive “two-fold” ministry comprised solely of priests and deacons (and before even that, an even earlier loose organization centered around charismatics). Of particular interest to some readers may be the parts of the paper relating to the origin of the papacy.
Essentially, this paper tracks the shift of Christianity from inspired religious cult and persecuted movement to the powerful bureaucracy seen in the post-classical era.
An archaeological review that I follow recently announced the discovery of two clay seals. I was excited to see this, because these seals, found in Jerusalem, relate directly to my essay on Jeremiah 36. These seals bring to life the many scribes and ministers at King Zedekiah’s court from the book of Jeremiah and remind us that the text of Jeremiah is not divorced from the real world and society in which it was written.
The following paper won an essay contest in 2008 — the Bernard Kaufman, Jr. Judaic Studies Award. The paper was written in an undergraduate course at Tulane University called “Hebrew Bible” taught by Dr. Galen Marquis where students read the Hebrew Bible for its literary worth, not as a religious document, and the text was subjected to literary criticism. This paper is the product of a critical literary examination of chapter 36 of the book of Jeremiah:
Women in Roman law were never completely independent. J.F. Gardner, Women in Roman Law and Society, p. 5 (Indiana University Press 1991). The pater familias created an unbalanced power dynamic in at least a legal sense. R.P. Saller, Patriarchy, Property and Death in the Roman Family, p. 104 (Cambridge University Press 1994). Roman society was a patriarchy that was very concerned with morality, and women were either subservient or stigmatized.
Probably one of the most bizarre stories in the Hebrew Bible is the story of Samson. The story of Samson is generally confused. The narrative is sketchy and full of riddles and often makes allusions the author seems to expect the reader to be able to connect but are meaningless to modern readers. It becomes much more clearer when viewed through the lens of ancient near-eastern mythology. Samson (שמשון) is related to ‘shamash’ (שמש) or “sun,” while his infamous wife’s name, Delilah (דלילה), is related to ‘lilah’ (לילה), the Hebrew word for “night.” He is a solar mythic hero related to Gilgamesh, the hero of the Babylonian myth, and Hercules, the Greek mythic hero. (Indeed, Gilgamesh’s patron deity is the sun-god Shamash).
“[T]wo universal constants about witch beliefs cut across cultures: witches represent people’s deepest fears about themselves and society, and they represent a reversal of all that is considered normal behavior in a particular society.” James L. Brain, An Anthropological Perspective on the Witchcraze, “Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: An Anthropological Study of the Supernatural,” 265 (eds. P. Moro, J. Myers, & A. Lehmann, 7th ed. 2008).