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4603Alpha Christianity Planning Session at SBL (19 Nov)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Nov 11, 2012
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG, Alpha
      On: Alpha Christianity Planning Session at SBL (19 Nov)
      From: Bruce

      Over the last century or so, there has been widespread interest, both lay
      and clerical, in what I might call a less Pauline Christianity. At present,
      as far as I know, there are three principal suggestions that such a
      Christianity existed, and can be accessed by modern persons. All three are
      being given space at the coming SBL. My purpose in this note is to call
      attention to these occasions, perhaps especially the third.

      1. One supposed representative of a non-Resurrection Christianity is the
      fictive document Q (excogitated in 1833, and defined as passages common to
      Mt/Lk but absent in Mk). This is especially apparent in the Kloppenborg
      stratification of 1987 ("The Formation of Q"), in which the "sapiential"
      passages, the ones more readily attributed to a Cynic Sage Jesus, are
      privileged as Q1: the earliest, and thus presumptively most authentic, of
      three strata. A panel considering this book and its implications, S17-332,
      is scheduled for one of the Q meetings (4-6:30 PM, Saturday 17 Nov, in
      McCormick Place North, Room 427A). There are also other Q meetings.

      2. Another possible representative is the also non-Resurrection Gospel of
      Thomas, the full Coptic version of which was discovered in 1945 and
      immediately became popular with the large reading public. Interest, both
      popular and scholarly, still continues. There seems to be no Thomas section
      at SBL, though there are papers on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and other
      relevant texts on other panels, and two successive meetings of the Nag
      Hammadi and Gnosticism section, on Sunday 17 Nov, at 9 and again at 1:30,
      both, conveniently enough, in the same room: McCormick Place West 194A.

      3. A cluster of texts, to which I may be the first to have called attention
      as such, also do not preach or recognize the Resurrection, and all have
      features that tend to identify them as early. The Two Ways, the Didache with
      which one variant of the Two Ways was later combined, the hymn embedded in
      Philippians 2, and the canonical Epistle of James are the most obvious.
      Similar early tendencies are visible (though some philological work of
      restoration is required) in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, in the later
      composite tract 1 John, and in some of the post-Pauline material, including
      ameliorative interpolations in Romans, 1 Cor, Galatians, and other genuine
      epistles. This Alpha Christianity (to use my term for it) persisted and was
      textually active at least until the 4th century, some of its literary
      products being the pseudo-Clementine literature. There will be a planning
      meeting of the Alpha Christianity group at SBL, M19-5, from 8 to 8:50 AM on
      Monday 19 Nov, at McCormick South room 102D. As is said in the notice of the
      meeting (SBL program book p363), it is expected that the Didache and the
      stratification of Mark may come up, but the chief point of the face time is
      to see what research directions (whether these or others) might be
      profitable, and perhaps to find people interested in following up some of
      those directions. To repeat the information in the Program Book, the basic
      Alpha Christianity page (by way of background information) is at


      Not every page linked from that index is there, and not every page that IS
      there is up to date in all details. My apologies, but this is what research
      in progress tends to look like: the time needed to codify it takes away from
      the time needed to do it.


      Help with that research, whether arranged at the abovementioned meeting or
      otherwise, is always welcome, and I repeat that a publication medium


      is available for promising results of reasonable brevity. As will there
      appear, v1 is out, and v2 is in the advanced stages of editing, and should
      appear in early 2013. I may add that v1 will be on sale at a special
      discount at the Scholars Choice booth in the SBL/AAR booksale, where library
      and individual orders may be placed. A flyer accompanying the display copy
      of v1 conveniently pulls out the items of general methodological and
      specific NT interest (these have also been indexed in New Testament
      Abstracts). Sinological stuff predominates in the journal; that is the
      disciplinary locus of the sponsoring institution. But comparative studies,
      signaled in the journal's subtitle, are also genuinely important to the
      management, and I may say (speaking now from one of the three editorial
      chairs, and thus with some confidence) that even more space will be devoted
      to NT subjects, both canonical and other, in v2 and subsequent volumes.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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