Just reading a testy response by Rodney Stark to 3 essays commenting upon
his book 'The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History'
(1996) in the latest Journal of early Christian Studies (vol 6, number 2,
Among other stuff he criticises what he calls the 'chaos school of early
christianity' (with what he calls 'its runaway claims about there having
been so many dissident, fragmented christianities') [my note - this sounds
rather like a strong criticism of the standard post Bauer line].
He conjectures that even by 100AD it is plausible to argue there were very,
very few fluently literate men (and for Steve - even less fluently literate
women)in the christian house churches. The actual figure he seems to approve
of is less than 100 fluently literate men (the actual conjectured figure is
42) - in total - among maybe 7000 early christians - scattered across
between 100 and 200 house churches. He criticises the 'chaos school' for
apparently positing almost as many dissident christianities as the total
number of adult christian literate males.
He argues its more plausible to suggest the vast majority of house churches
remained within mutually tolerably limits and so kept common cause - than to
think of them as some kind of cacophonous 'Tower of Babel'.
(As an aside he also suggests that even in Irenaeus' time - the heresies
were extremely marginal - relative to a self-conscious confederacy of local
christian groups, united in their aims and historical trajectory. He
compares Hippolytus' (third century?) list of heresies to a modern
encyclopaedia of varieties of Mormonism - i.e. presumably you can list a
huge variety of side currents and marginal, dissident, or deceased groups
but there is a clear mainstream. And finally, as an aside, he seems to say,
it is only when christianity becomes an 'official church' - after
Constantine - that 'considerable' conflict broke out. Pity Tom K isn't on
the list any more - I wonder what he makes of this?)
(I haven't read his book - but his article was provoking - and all the more
interesting because he was clearly extremely irritated by the articles he
was commenting upon).
I thought it interesting,
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-crosstalk@...
> [mailto:owner-crosstalk@...]On Behalf Of Mark
> Sent: 01 July 1998 11:43
> To: Stephen C. Carlson
> Cc: Crosstalk@...
> Subject: Re: Doubting Thomas
[much thoughful stuff snipped]
> I am fond of Occam's razor as a methodological principle in relation
> to the question of hypothesising documents (Q) to explain a literary
> relationship that can be better explained withoug hypothesising
> documents (Luke's use of Matthew). But the same principle is
> difficult to apply in relation to the discussion of oral tradition in
> the first two century of our era. Oral traditions are by their very
> nature lost except in so far as they are crystallized in texts. In
> such circumstances we need to think carefully not about what is the
> simplest model, but about what is the most plausible model. It
> sounds to me, at my present state of knowledge, like the second
> option above is the more plausible model unless we are radically to
> revise ideas about the diversity of Christian origins.
> The qualification "at my present state of knowledge" is important,
> though. Since beginning reading on Thomas, I keep stumbling over the
> citations of Stevan Davies as a major authority on the issue.
> Mark (trying very hard not to think about last night)
> Dr Mark Goodacre M.S.Goodacre@...
> Dept of Theology, University of Birmingham
> Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
> Crosstalk Web Archive: http://www.findmail.com/list/crosstalk