The late second century and Paul

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 8 In the preceding post I introduced some evidence that Christianity in fact predated the turn of the era—such as that Philo (fl c. 20 CE) knew ‘Christian’ sectarians including the Sethians and Ophites, that his description of the Therapeutae was of an early Buddhist-Christian group on the outskirts of Alexandria, that ‘Apollos’ in the Acts of the Apostles already knew ‘Jesus’ but not ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ etc. In this post I jump forward two centuries, to the late second century CE—just when the New Testament canon was being formulated. The prevalent form of christology was still ‘Jesus is the indwelling spirit of God’s wisdom’—a christology that I have termed Stage II. I briefly … Continue reading

150–200 CE: A ‘watch and wait’ period in early Christian history

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 3 In a recent comment, Albert Wubs kindly brought to my attention a work entitled Ad Autolycum, the only surviving writing (in three ‘books’) by Theophilus of Antioch, a Christian bishop in the latter half of the second century CE. The Greek text and English translation, edited by the late Robert M. Grant, are available via PDF download here. The problem Wubs correctly notes that “any reference to the name ‘Christ’ is totally absent. Maybe Theophilus also knew a ‘Christianity’ without Christ.” This is interesting, for Ad Autolycum (composed c. 185 CE) seems to know the canonical gospels—it names “John” as one of “the sacred scriptures” (and includes two verbatim quotations from the Johannine … Continue reading

The Hermann Detering Legacy/2—Curriculum Vitae to 2005

This is the first of several posts that will review Dr. Detering’s life and scholarship according to the available material on- and offline. It is carried out from afar and in an admittedly impromptu manner. I invite readers to add data, links, or corrections—simply send me an email with the information and I will consider adding it to the CV. The Wikipedia article (German here) is a good place to begin, and Detering’s own brief VITA in German is on his website here. These posts are deceptively short. However, they are dense with links that offer the interested reader avenues to explore a good deal of material. If possible, I would like to add a personal impression of Dr. Detering’s … Continue reading

The Hermann Detering Legacy—1

As of this writing, Dr. Detering’s German website is online here. It includes a page that Detering thoughtfully provided for English readers. We shall begin there. Detering’s ‘English page’ contains twenty-two entries. However, only seven were authored by Detering himself. Those are the ones that I will include in this and subsequent posts, to be followed by other writings by Detering available in English. Detering’s inclusion on his website of writings by other authors reveals their importance in his eyes. Those ancillary writings include books by Edwin Johnson (Antiqua Mater), P.-L. Couchoud, and G. Bolland, as well as much material supplied by Klaus Schilling. Perhaps some of this interesting ancillary material will also be uploaded to this website in due … Continue reading

In memoriam: Dr. Hermann Detering—Pt. 2

Dr. Detering’s views rendered him a pariah as regards the New Testament guild. This applies mostly, of course, to Europe, where he never held an academic position nor published in any significant academic press. Detering reached out to contacts across the Atlantic beginning about the turn of the millennium. He was a valued and repeat contributor to Dr. Robert Price’s ‘out of the mainstream’ Journal of Higher Criticism. Other scholars, including myself, subsequently translated, promoted, and published his work this side of the Atlantic. The last email I received from Hermann (my translation, dated September 26, 2018) reads as follows: Dear René, I have been yet again in hospital. Unfortunately, the prognosis is not very good. Evidently, the immunotherapy had … Continue reading

H. Detering, “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus”—A commentary (Pt. 20)

→ Table of Contents The Odes of SolomonConclusion: The theology of immanence The two prior posts have briefly considered the Odes of Solomon, a ‘Christian hymnbook’ dating to the early second century CE. My discussion took its point de départ from Dr. Detering’s observation that Ode 39 knows dual outcomes of the Exodus: “Crossing the water is the judgment—it represents salvation for believers, but destruction for unbelievers” (pp. 8–9). We have seen that this dual outcome is very ancient and goes back to the Flood. Its equivocal nature allowed gnostics to interpret water as salvation (gnosis) for those who possess understanding, and as doom for those who do not. I proposed in a prior post that the early second century CE, … Continue reading

How late was the name “Paul”?

A recent post on this site concluded: “I find it curious that both Marcion and Paul bear names that are diminutives. ‘Marcion’ means Little Mark. ‘Paul’ means little. Is this purely a coincidence?” Here I attempt an answer to this question… Diminutives are generally disparaging. There are sarcastic exceptions (“Little John”, “Tiny Tim”) but—unless the names Marcion and Paul are original—the possibility exists that these were nicknames coined with hostile intent. As regards “Paul,” we are told in the New Testament that it was not his only name—the Apostle also went by “Saul” (Acts 13:9). As was common in antiquity, he had a Roman and a Jewish name, and neither one was demonstrably a nickname or disparaging. But, then, we … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel/UrMark: working criteria

The comprehensive UrMark, cumulatively updated after each installment, is found here. The canonical (color coded) Gospel of Mark, also updated after each installment, is found here. As noted in the Introduction, in this series of posts I attempt a reconstruction of the earliest Gospel of Mark—a text that I identify with the “Hebrew Gospel” (a view, incidentally, not found anywhere else). Each post deals with a separate chapter, and two versions are offered: (1) a short, hypothetical “core”—the first draft of a Hebrew Gospel/UrMark reconstructed according to several criteria (see next paragraph); followed by (2) the entire chapter in the English translation (RSV). Both the short and the received versions are color coded. In my view, the best way to … Continue reading

Before Jesus of Nazareth

The first half of the second century was a watershed time in Christian history. By mid-century all four canonical gospels had been written (below), and the bulk of the Pauline epistles were ‘collected’ and published. At the beginning of the second century, however, it seems that only some elements of Paul’s letters (short epistles) were known, and probably not to many people. It is difficult for us to imagine a Christianity without Jesus of Nazareth. But we must do so, for the colossal God-man arrived not before the second century. The Pauline epistles do not know such a Jesus. On the other hand, the gospels do. The period of greatest ferment in Christianity can be dated to the two centuries … Continue reading