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Volume 1: Paul and the Gospels
The period since the close of World War II has been agonizingly introspective—not least because of the pain of reassessing Christianity’s attitude to Judaism. The early Christian materials have often been examined to assess their role in the long-standing negative attitude of Christians to Jews. The motivation for the early church’s sometimes harsh attitude was partly theological—it needed to define itself over against its parent—and partly sociological—it needed to make clear the line that divided the fledgling group of Christian believers fromt he group with which it was most likely to be confused. This collection of studies emphasizes the context and history of early Christianity in reconsidering many of the classic passages that have contributed to the development of anti-Judaism in Christianity. The volume opens with an essay that clearly delineates the state of the question of anti-Judaism in early Christianity. Then follow discussions of specific passages in the writings of Paul as well as the Gospels.
Volume 2: Separation and Polemic
The second volume in this two-volume work studying the initial developments of anti-Judaism within the church examines the evolution of the Christian faith in its social context as revealed by evidence such as early patristic and rabbinic writings and archaeological findings.
Biblical scholars have often contrasted the exegesis of the early church fathers from the eastern region and “school” of Syrian Antioch against that of the school of Alexandria. The Antiochenes have often been described as strictly historical-literal exegetes in contrast to the allegorical exegesis of the Alexandrians. Patristic scholars now challenge those stereotypes, some even arguing that few differences existed between the two groups.
This work agrees that both schools were concerned with a literal and spiritual reading. But, it also tries to show, through analysis of Theodore and Theodoret’s exegesis and use of the term theoria, that how they integrated the literal-theological readings often remained quite distinct from the Alexandrians. For the Antiochenes, the term theoria did not mean allegory, but instead stood for a range of perceptions—prophetic, christological, and contemporary. It is in these insights that we find the deep wisdom to help modern readers interpret Scripture theologically.
The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown is the history of the First Baptist Church of Georgetown, South Carolina, as well as the history of Baptists in the colony and state. Roy Talbert, Jr., and Meggan A. Farish detail Georgetown Baptists’ long and tumultuous history, which began with the migration of Baptist exhorter William Screven from England to Maine and then to South Carolina during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Screven established the First Baptist Church in Charleston in the 1690s before moving to Georgetown in 1710. His son Elisha laid out the town in 1734 and helped found an interdenominational meeting house on the Black River, where the Baptists worshipped until a proper edifice was constructed in Georgetown: the Antipedo Baptist Church, named for the congregation’s opposition to infant baptism. Three of the most recognized figures in southern Baptist history—Oliver Hart, Richard Furman, and Edmond Botsford—played vital roles in keeping the Georgetown church alive through the American Revolution. The nineteenth century was particularly trying for the Georgetown Baptists, and the church came very close to shutting its doors on several occasions. The authors reveal that for most of the nineteenth century a majority of church members were African American slaves. Not until World War II did Georgetown witness any real growth. Since then the congregation has blossomed into one of the largest churches in the convention and rightfully occupies an important place in the history of the Baptist denomination. The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown is an invaluable contribution to southern religious history as well as the history of race relations before and after the Civil War in the American South.
Platonism and the Exile of Sethian Gnosticism
In the second century, Platonist and Judeo-Christian thought were sufficiently friendly that a Greek philosopher could declare, "What is Plato but Moses speaking Greek?" Four hundred years later, a Christian emperor had ended the public teaching of subversive Platonic thought. When and how did this philosophical rupture occur? Dylan M. Burns argues that the fundamental break occurred in Rome, ca. 263, in the circle of the great mystic Plotinus, author of the Enneads. Groups of controversial Christian metaphysicians called Gnostics ("knowers") frequented his seminars, disputed his views, and then disappeared from the history of philosophy—until the 1945 discovery, at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, of codices containing Gnostic literature, including versions of the books circulated by Plotinus's Christian opponents. Blending state-of-the-art Greek metaphysics and ecstatic Jewish mysticism, these texts describe techniques for entering celestial realms, participating in the angelic liturgy, confronting the transcendent God, and even becoming a divine being oneself. They also describe the revelation of an alien God to his elect, a race of "foreigners" under the protection of the patriarch Seth, whose interventions will ultimately culminate in the end of the world.
Apocalypse of the Alien God proposes a radical interpretation of these long-lost apocalypses, placing them firmly in the context of Judeo-Christian authorship rather than ascribing them to a pagan offshoot of Gnosticism. According to Burns, this Sethian literature emerged along the fault lines between Judaism and Christianity, drew on traditions known to scholars from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Enochic texts, and ultimately catalyzed the rivalry of Platonism with Christianity. Plunging the reader into the culture wars and classrooms of the high Empire, Apocalypse of the Alien God offers the most concrete social and historical description available of any group of Gnostic Christians as it explores the intersections of ancient Judaism, Christianity, Hellenism, myth, and philosophy.
Cosmos and Anthropos in Romans 5-8
Romans 5-8 revolve around God’s dramatic cosmic activity and its implications for humanity and all of creation. Apocalyptic Paul measures the power of Paul’s rhetoric about the relationship of cosmic power to the Law, interpretations of righteousness and the self, and the link between grace and obedience. A revealing study of Paul’s understanding of humanity in light of God’s apocalyptic action through Jesus Christ, Apocalyptic Paul illuminates Romans 5-8 and shows how critical this neglected part of Romans was to Paul’s literary project.
Beyond Divine Maturity
In Portraits of a Mature God, Mark McEntire traced the narrative development of the divine character in the Old Testament, placing the God portrayed at the end of that long story at the center of theological discussion. He showed that Israel’s understanding of God had developed into a complex, multipurpose being who could work within a new reality, a world that included a semiautonomous province of Yehud and a burgeoning Mesopotamian-Mediterranean world in which the Jewish people lived and moved in a growing diversity of ways. Now, McEntire continues that story beyond the narrative end of the Hebrew Bible as Israel and Israel’s God moved into the Hellenistic world. The “narrative” McEntire perceives in the apocryphal literature describes a God protecting and guiding the scattered and persecuted, a God responding to suffering in revolt, and a God disclosing mysteries, yet also hidden in the symbolism of dreams and visions. McEntire here provides a coherent and compelling account of theological perspectives in the apocryphal writings and beyond.