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Alpha Christianity: An Invitation

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, GThomas On: Alpha Christianity: An Invitation From: Bruce As some will know, but I think it may be proper to mention
    Message 1 of 17 , Nov 19, 2010
      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, GThomas
      On: Alpha Christianity: An Invitation
      From: Bruce

      As some will know, but I think it may be proper to mention generally, there has been some recent research done on the possibility that the beliefs of the earliest Christians, those who received their instruction from Jesus in his lifetime, did not include a theory of Jesus's atoning death (which, come to think of it, had not yet transpired at that time), and was based instead on a John-the-Baptist-like traditional nomism (as refined and simplified by Jesus), with a special emphasis on repentance and a sinless life thereafter, in expectation of an imminent Last Day judgement. Our name for this early belief is Alpha Christianity. The proposal is that Alpha Christianity is not only the oldest Christian belief, but that it continued to exist, to be organized, to propagate its views in Syria, Greece, and beyond (Paul, who was a convert to the later form of Christianity, contacts or contests it at Philippi, Corinth, and Rome), and to generate texts, well past the middle of the 1st century. (A possible connection with early Gnostic beliefs, which also tended not to include the concept of atonement, but to develop in a different direction, remains to be investigated).

      Aspects of this view will be presented at two panels at the coming SBL meeting, and there will also be a special Additional Meeting, where those interested in developing the topic may meet and briefly discuss possibilities. The schedule of those meetings (with downloadable abstracts and handouts), along with some introductory material, including two relevant downloadable preprints from the Project's forthcoming journal, is available at this site:

      http://www.umass.edu/wsp/biblica/alpha/index.html

      Those who will not be at SBL but may nevertheless be interested in the subject are invited to get in touch with me by E-mail, at any time.

      With thanks (and with apologies for cross-posting),

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Dennis Goffin
      Bruce, One convincing proof of the continuation of Alpha (later Ebionite ) Christianity for me is on page 182 of Goulder s book on the Two Missions, where he
      Message 2 of 17 , Nov 19, 2010
        Bruce,
        One convincing proof of the continuation of Alpha (later
        Ebionite ) Christianity for me is on page 182 of Goulder's book on the Two
        Missions, where he remarks on the non-appearance of Syria and Egypt in the
        discussions.
        Dennis

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "E Bruce Brooks" <brooks@...>
        To: "Crosstalk" <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>; "GThomas"
        <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 8:19 AM
        Subject: [XTalk] Alpha Christianity: An Invitation


        > To: GPG
        > Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, GThomas
        > On: Alpha Christianity: An Invitation
        > From: Bruce
        >
        > As some will know, but I think it may be proper to mention generally,
        > there has been some recent research done on the possibility that the
        > beliefs of the earliest Christians, those who received their instruction
        > from Jesus in his lifetime, did not include a theory of Jesus's atoning
        > death (which, come to think of it, had not yet transpired at that time),
        > and was based instead on a John-the-Baptist-like traditional nomism (as
        > refined and simplified by Jesus), with a special emphasis on repentance
        > and a sinless life thereafter, in expectation of an imminent Last Day
        > judgement. Our name for this early belief is Alpha Christianity. The
        > proposal is that Alpha Christianity is not only the oldest Christian
        > belief, but that it continued to exist, to be organized, to propagate its
        > views in Syria, Greece, and beyond (Paul, who was a convert to the later
        > form of Christianity, contacts or contests it at Philippi, Corinth, and
        > Rome), and to generate texts, well past the middle of the 1st century. (A
        > possible connection with early Gnostic beliefs, which also tended not to
        > include the concept of atonement, but to develop in a different direction,
        > remains to be investigated).
        >
        > Aspects of this view will be presented at two panels at the coming SBL
        > meeting, and there will also be a special Additional Meeting, where those
        > interested in developing the topic may meet and briefly discuss
        > possibilities. The schedule of those meetings (with downloadable abstracts
        > and handouts), along with some introductory material, including two
        > relevant downloadable preprints from the Project's forthcoming journal, is
        > available at this site:
        >
        > http://www.umass.edu/wsp/biblica/alpha/index.html
        >
        > Those who will not be at SBL but may nevertheless be interested in the
        > subject are invited to get in touch with me by E-mail, at any time.
        >
        > With thanks (and with apologies for cross-posting),
        >
        > Bruce
        >
        > E Bruce Brooks
        > Warring States Project
        > University of Massachusetts at Amherst
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
        >
        > To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to:
        > crosstalk2-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        > To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
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        > crosstalk2-owners@yahoogroups.com
        >
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        >
      • kopecekt@yahoo.com
        I d like to add a few footnotes to Dennis and Bruce s posts (including Bruce s five-page document titled Alpha Christianity to which a link is given in his
        Message 3 of 17 , Dec 11, 2010
          I'd like to add a few footnotes to Dennis' and Bruce's posts (including Bruce's five-page document titled "Alpha Christianity" to which a link is given in his post). None of these footnotes at all challenge the main thrusts of Bruce's and Dennis' posts.

          The first footnote is that I suspect not much was intended by the use of the word "proof" in Dennis' reference to p. 182 of Goulder's book, for Ebionite and Nazorean followers of Jesus, who represent the continuation of what Bruce calls "Alpha Christianity", almost certainly existed through at least the end of the fourth century, as the rather abundant data in Epiphanius substantiates.

          The second footnote is that offhand I cannot recall any good evidence from the Fathers that either the Ebionites or the Nazoreans called themselves 'Christians'. Hence using the expression 'Alpha CHRISTIANITY' might not be the best way to designate their historical antecedent. The evidence suggests that both the Ebionites and the Nazoreans viewed themselves as simply Jews--'Jews for Jesus', as it were.

          Finally, some of the language in the five-page document titled "Alpha Christianity" might, I think, be improved. The first sentence of the document suggests that the historical alternative to what is called "Alpha Christianity" was a form of Christianity focused on "the atonement doctrine of salvation, based on a sacrificial theory of Jesus's death (which later became orthodox)." On p. 3 this historical alternative is identified as "Beta Christianity, whose root belief" is characterized as "the saving power of Jesus's death." Indeed, the bottom of p. 3 and the top of p. 4 speak further of this "Beta doctrine, as everyone knows" going on "to become the official position of the unified Christian Church," a "unified Church . . . not achieved until, at earliest, the late 1st century: several generations after Jesus."

          I realize that there is a widespread belief in many circles today that what came to call itself in antiquity "the Catholic Church" based itself on the death of Jesus viewed as an 'atoning' event': Jesus' 'atoning' death was, it is held, Catholic Christianity's "root belief." This position, however, has not yet convinced me.

          From, for example, Ignatius of Antioch at the end of the first and beginning of the second centuries AD through Irenaeus of Lyon in the second century and on through Athanasius in the fourth century--and even on through the medieval Christian Anselm of Canterbury--the key saving 'event' in Catholic Christianity was not the death of Jesus but, rather, the incarnation of God in him. One sees this, for instance, in Ignatius' letters, in Irenaeus' AGAINST HERESIES (and even in his handbook, THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING, in Athanasius' works against the 'Arians' and in his 'handbook' of Christian belief, DE INCARNATIONE--and even, one might argue, on into Anselm's CUR DEUS HOMO.

          The doctrine of salvation that corresponds with the Incarnation is not an 'atoning' death of Jesus but theosis, that is, divinization or deification, a view that is arguably present in Ignatius and appears to be the central perspective on salvation in Irenaeus and Athanasius.

          Tom Kopecek

          --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Dennis Goffin" <dgoffin@...> wrote:
          >
          > Bruce,
          > One convincing proof of the continuation of Alpha (later
          > Ebionite ) Christianity for me is on page 182 of Goulder's book on the Two
          > Missions, where he remarks on the non-appearance of Syria and Egypt in the
          > discussions.
          > Dennis
          >
          > ----- Original Message -----
          > From: "E Bruce Brooks" <brooks@...>
          > To: "Crosstalk" <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>; "GThomas"
          > <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
          > Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 8:19 AM
          > Subject: [XTalk] Alpha Christianity: An Invitation
          >
          >
          > > To: GPG
          > > Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, GThomas
          > > On: Alpha Christianity: An Invitation
          > > From: Bruce
          > >
          > > As some will know, but I think it may be proper to mention generally,
          > > there has been some recent research done on the possibility that the
          > > beliefs of the earliest Christians, those who received their instruction
          > > from Jesus in his lifetime, did not include a theory of Jesus's atoning
          > > death (which, come to think of it, had not yet transpired at that time),
          > > and was based instead on a John-the-Baptist-like traditional nomism (as
          > > refined and simplified by Jesus), with a special emphasis on repentance
          > > and a sinless life thereafter, in expectation of an imminent Last Day
          > > judgement. Our name for this early belief is Alpha Christianity. The
          > > proposal is that Alpha Christianity is not only the oldest Christian
          > > belief, but that it continued to exist, to be organized, to propagate its
          > > views in Syria, Greece, and beyond (Paul, who was a convert to the later
          > > form of Christianity, contacts or contests it at Philippi, Corinth, and
          > > Rome), and to generate texts, well past the middle of the 1st century. (A
          > > possible connection with early Gnostic beliefs, which also tended not to
          > > include the concept of atonement, but to develop in a different direction,
          > > remains to be investigated).
          > >
          > > Aspects of this view will be presented at two panels at the coming SBL
          > > meeting, and there will also be a special Additional Meeting, where those
          > > interested in developing the topic may meet and briefly discuss
          > > possibilities. The schedule of those meetings (with downloadable abstracts
          > > and handouts), along with some introductory material, including two
          > > relevant downloadable preprints from the Project's forthcoming journal, is
          > > available at this site:
          > >
          > > http://www.umass.edu/wsp/biblica/alpha/index.html
          > >
          > > Those who will not be at SBL but may nevertheless be interested in the
          > > subject are invited to get in touch with me by E-mail, at any time.
          > >
          > > With thanks (and with apologies for cross-posting),
          > >
          > > Bruce
          > >
          > > E Bruce Brooks
          > > Warring States Project
          > > University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          > >
          > >
          > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > ------------------------------------
          > >
          > > The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
          > >
          > > To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to:
          > > crosstalk2-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
          > >
          > > To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
          > >
          > > List managers may be contacted directly at:
          > > crosstalk2-owners@yahoogroups.com
          > >
          > > Yahoo! Groups Links
          > >
          > >
          > >
          >
        • Bob Schacht
          ... Tom, Welcome back! For those who may be new to the list, Tom Kopecek is a patristic scholar, recently retired, who participated frequently in the early
          Message 4 of 17 , Dec 11, 2010
            At 10:16 AM 12/11/2010, kopecekt@... wrote:
            >I'd like to add a few footnotes to Dennis' and Bruce's posts
            >(including Bruce's five-page document titled "Alpha Christianity" to
            >which a link is given in his post). None of these footnotes at all
            >challenge the main thrusts of Bruce's and Dennis' posts.

            Tom,
            Welcome back!
            For those who may be new to the list, Tom Kopecek is a patristic
            scholar, recently retired, who participated frequently in the early
            days of crosstalk in its original incarnation in the late 1990s. His
            undergraduate students at Central College in Pella(!), IA got the
            benefit of a graduate-level education, IMHO, in his classes.

            When the idea of Alpha Christianity was originally presented here on
            this list, I thought immediately of Dr. Kopecek, and in his absence,
            I was tempted to dig through my notes and attempt some comments in
            his stead. I'm glad that I restrained myself, for it is much better
            to learn from him directly.

            >The first footnote is that I suspect not much was intended by the
            >use of the word "proof" in Dennis' reference to p. 182 of Goulder's
            >book, for Ebionite and Nazorean followers of Jesus, who represent
            >the continuation of what Bruce calls "Alpha Christianity", almost
            >certainly existed through at least the end of the fourth century, as
            >the rather abundant data in Epiphanius substantiates.
            >
            >The second footnote is that offhand I cannot recall any good
            >evidence from the Fathers that either the Ebionites or the Nazoreans
            >called themselves 'Christians'. Hence using the expression 'Alpha
            >CHRISTIANITY' might not be the best way to designate their
            >historical antecedent. The evidence suggests that both the Ebionites
            >and the Nazoreans viewed themselves as simply Jews--'Jews for
            >Jesus', as it were.
            >
            >Finally, some of the language in the five-page document titled
            >"Alpha Christianity" might, I think, be improved. The first sentence
            >of the document suggests that the historical alternative to what is
            >called "Alpha Christianity" was a form of Christianity focused on
            >"the atonement doctrine of salvation, based on a sacrificial theory
            >of Jesus's death (which later became orthodox)." On p. 3 this
            >historical alternative is identified as "Beta Christianity, whose
            >root belief" is characterized as "the saving power of Jesus's
            >death." Indeed, the bottom of p. 3 and the top of p. 4 speak further
            >of this "Beta doctrine, as everyone knows" going on "to become the
            >official position of the unified Christian Church," a "unified
            >Church . . . not achieved until, at earliest, the late 1st century:
            >several generations after Jesus."
            >
            >I realize that there is a widespread belief in many circles today
            >that what came to call itself in antiquity "the Catholic Church"
            >based itself on the death of Jesus viewed as an 'atoning' event':
            >Jesus' 'atoning' death was, it is held, Catholic Christianity's
            >"root belief." This position, however, has not yet convinced me.
            >
            >From, for example, Ignatius of Antioch at the end of the first and
            >beginning of the second centuries AD through Irenaeus of Lyon in the
            >second century and on through Athanasius in the fourth century--and
            >even on through the medieval Christian Anselm of Canterbury--the key
            >saving 'event' in Catholic Christianity was not the death of Jesus
            >but, rather, the incarnation of God in him. One sees this, for
            >instance, in Ignatius' letters, in Irenaeus' AGAINST HERESIES (and
            >even in his handbook, THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING,
            >in Athanasius' works against the 'Arians' and in his 'handbook' of
            >Christian belief, DE INCARNATIONE--and even, one might argue, on
            >into Anselm's CUR DEUS HOMO.
            >
            >The doctrine of salvation that corresponds with the Incarnation is
            >not an 'atoning' death of Jesus but theosis, that is, divinization
            >or deification, a view that is arguably present in Ignatius and
            >appears to be the central perspective on salvation in Irenaeus and Athanasius.
            >
            >Tom Kopecek

            I hope that we will hear further from Dennis and Bruce in response,
            because I know that I will learn from their discussion with Tom.

            Meanwhile, Tom, are any of the documents that you posted online for
            your classes, relevant to what is here called Alpha Christianity,
            available for interested readers? I am thinking that some of your
            unpublished scholarship (as well as published work) might be of
            interest here on this subject.

            Thanks, and again, welcome!

            Bob Schacht
            Northern Arizona University




            >--- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Dennis Goffin" <dgoffin@...> wrote:
            > >
            > > Bruce,
            > > One convincing proof of the continuation of Alpha (later
            > > Ebionite ) Christianity for me is on page 182 of Goulder's book on the Two
            > > Missions, where he remarks on the non-appearance of Syria and
            > Egypt in the
            > > discussions.
            > > Dennis
            > >
            > > ----- Original Message -----
            > > From: "E Bruce Brooks" <brooks@...>
            > > To: "Crosstalk" <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>; "GThomas"
            > > <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
            > > Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 8:19 AM
            > > Subject: [XTalk] Alpha Christianity: An Invitation
            > >
            > >
            > > > To: GPG
            > > > Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, GThomas
            > > > On: Alpha Christianity: An Invitation
            > > > From: Bruce
            > > >
            > > > As some will know, but I think it may be proper to mention generally,
            > > > there has been some recent research done on the possibility that the
            > > > beliefs of the earliest Christians, those who received their instruction
            > > > from Jesus in his lifetime, did not include a theory of Jesus's atoning
            > > > death (which, come to think of it, had not yet transpired at that time),
            > > > and was based instead on a John-the-Baptist-like traditional nomism (as
            > > > refined and simplified by Jesus), with a special emphasis on repentance
            > > > and a sinless life thereafter, in expectation of an imminent Last Day
            > > > judgement. Our name for this early belief is Alpha Christianity. The
            > > > proposal is that Alpha Christianity is not only the oldest Christian
            > > > belief, but that it continued to exist, to be organized, to
            > propagate its
            > > > views in Syria, Greece, and beyond (Paul, who was a convert to the later
            > > > form of Christianity, contacts or contests it at Philippi, Corinth, and
            > > > Rome), and to generate texts, well past the middle of the 1st
            > century. (A
            > > > possible connection with early Gnostic beliefs, which also tended not to
            > > > include the concept of atonement, but to develop in a different
            > direction,
            > > > remains to be investigated).
            > > >
            > > > Aspects of this view will be presented at two panels at the coming SBL
            > > > meeting, and there will also be a special Additional Meeting,
            > where those
            > > > interested in developing the topic may meet and briefly discuss
            > > > possibilities. The schedule of those meetings (with
            > downloadable abstracts
            > > > and handouts), along with some introductory material, including two
            > > > relevant downloadable preprints from the Project's forthcoming
            > journal, is
            > > > available at this site:
            > > >
            > > > http://www.umass.edu/wsp/biblica/alpha/index.html
            > > >
            > > > Those who will not be at SBL but may nevertheless be interested in the
            > > > subject are invited to get in touch with me by E-mail, at any time.
            > > >
            > > > With thanks (and with apologies for cross-posting),
            > > >
            > > > Bruce
            > > >
            > > > E Bruce Brooks
            > > > Warring States Project
            > > > University of Massachusetts at Amherst
            > > >
            > > >
            > > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            > > >
            > > >
            > > >
            > > > ------------------------------------
            > > >
            > > > The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
            > > >
            > > > To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to:
            > > > crosstalk2-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
            > > >
            > > > To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
            > > >
            > > > List managers may be contacted directly at:
            > > > crosstalk2-owners@yahoogroups.com
            > > >
            > > > Yahoo! Groups Links
            > > >
            > > >
            > > >
            > >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >------------------------------------
            >
            >The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
            >
            >To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
            >
            >To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
            >
            >List managers may be contacted directly at: crosstalk2-owners@yahoogroups.com
            >
            >Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • E Bruce Brooks
            To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Tom Kopecek On: Alpha Christianity From: Bruce Thanks to Tom for his careful and knowledgeable comments on the Alpha
            Message 5 of 17 , Dec 12, 2010
              To: Crosstalk
              Cc: GPG
              In Response To: Tom Kopecek
              On: Alpha Christianity
              From: Bruce

              Thanks to Tom for his careful and knowledgeable comments on the Alpha
              matter. That Ebionites and Nazarenes were still there for Epiphanius
              (whether or not he has correctly distinguished them; this is a problem that
              seems to have been solved several ways) is not in doubt, and I need not
              comment further on his first point. Briefly to the others:

              2. TOM: The second footnote is that offhand I cannot recall any good
              evidence from the Fathers that either the Ebionites or the Nazoreans called
              themselves 'Christians'. Hence using the expression 'Alpha CHRISTIANITY'
              might not be the best way to designate their historical antecedent. The
              evidence suggests that both the Ebionites and the Nazoreans viewed
              themselves as simply Jews--'Jews for Jesus', as it were.

              BRUCE: Limiting evidence to the Fathers draws a line which excludes nearly
              all 1c evidence. It also confines the analysis to sources which explicitly
              regarded Ebionites and others as heretics, and these sources would naturally
              be inclined to deny them the label Christians. But if they were *not*
              Christians, in some operative sense (whether they used exactly that label of
              themselves is of less importance), then they would count as external enemies
              (the hostile Jews, the Gentile world, the Roman overlords), not as wrong
              thinkers. But this is not what the relevant polemical texts tell us. Thus,
              in Jude, followed by 2 Peter, the complaint is that these wrong thinkers
              have penetrated into the inner membership circles of the Christians; they
              have "crept in privily" (Jude 0:4) "in your love-feasts (Jude 0:12); 2Pt
              2:1, "privily." They are internal enemies. They are wrong-thinking
              Christians. The virulence with which they are treated in the late 1c texts
              may be surprising, but it has parallels in every movement, whether religious
              or secular in nature. The deviant within gets much more venom than the mere
              opponent without. All men hate a traitor, and it seems to be typical of the
              late 1c Jesus movement that it treated doctrinal divergences in this way: as
              treason. This makes intelligible the fact (to me it would be otherwise
              surprising) that attitudes toward the erring brother change over the 1c: for
              the Epistle of Jacob, special merit attaches to winning back the erring
              brother. In the Epistle of Judas, it is acceptable to pray for such a
              person, as long as his errors are not major ones (meaning, that there is a
              grave area for which repentance is impossible, and prayer on behalf of the
              erring one is itself an error). For 2 Peter, which otherwise swallows Judas
              whole, this clause is changed, and those who fall away from the faith are
              entirely irredeemable. The odium of treason has come to be attached to them,
              and the true believers will no more of them.

              Are those addressed in the Epistle to the Hebrews Jews? Commentators as
              recent as Attridge have thought so. But I submit that this is manifestly
              mistaken. There is, in Hebrews, no attempt to convert Jews to Jesus belief,
              rather, to get those holding primitive Jesus belief to upgrade to advanced
              Jesus belief. This is exactly what Hebrews 5:11-6:2 says: the doctrines of
              those to whom the epistle is addressed are called fundamental, but also as
              childish, incomplete, based (like the teachings of John the Baptist, by the
              way, another mark of primitivity in this area) on repentance and good works,
              rather rudely called in Hebrews "dead works"). Those addressed are told, in
              Hebrews, not to come over (as would be the case if they were Jews), but to
              grow up.

              Harold has not seen fit to adopt this interpretion as a friendly amendment,
              so it turns out that I own it. I here take possession. The above is the nub
              of my commentary on Hebrews. There are a few more paragraphs in the complete
              work, but that much will do for present purposes.

              3. TOM: Finally, some of the language in the five-page document titled
              "Alpha
              Christianity" might, I think, be improved. The first sentence of the
              document suggests that the historical alternative to what is called "Alpha
              Christianity" was a form of Christianity focused on "the atonement doctrine
              of salvation, based on a sacrificial theory of Jesus's death (which later
              became orthodox)." On p. 3 this historical alternative is identified as
              "Beta Christianity, whose root belief" is characterized as
              "the saving power of Jesus's death." Indeed, the bottom of p. 3 and the top
              of p. 4 speak further of this "Beta doctrine, as everyone knows" going on
              "to become the official position of the unified Christian Church," a
              "unified Church . . . not achieved until, at earliest, the late 1st century:
              several generations after Jesus." / I realize that there is a widespread
              belief in many circles today that what came to call itself in antiquity "the
              Catholic Church" based itself on the death of Jesus viewed as an 'atoning'
              event': Jesus' 'atoning' death was, it is held, Catholic Christianity's
              "root belief."

              BRUCE: Glad to know I have company. Though it isn't necessary, for my
              purposes, that this be a "root belief" in the sense of a deductive first
              principle. It merely needs to be, or to become, firmly held against its
              alternative, whatever the alternative may be.

              TOM: This position, however, has not yet convinced me. From, for example,
              Ignatius of Antioch at the end of the first and beginning of the second
              centuries AD through Irenaeus of Lyon in the second century and on through
              Athanasius in the fourth century--and even on through the medieval Christian
              Anselm of Canterbury--the key saving
              'event' in Catholic Christianity was not the death of Jesus but, rather,
              the incarnation of God in him. One sees this, for instance, in Ignatius'
              letters, in Irenaeus' AGAINST HERESIES (and even in his handbook, THE
              DEMONSTRATION OF THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING, in Athanasius' works against the
              'Arians' and in his 'handbook' of Christian belief, DE INCARNATIONE--and
              even, one might argue, on into Anselm's CUR DEUS HOMO. The doctrine of
              salvation that corresponds with the Incarnation is not an 'atoning' death of
              Jesus but theosis, that is, divinization or
              deification, a view that is arguably present in Ignatius and appears to be
              the central perspective on salvation in Irenaeus and Athanasius.

              BRUCE: But surely not first in them. The divinization of Jesus proceeded all
              through the 1c, with the Incarnation as one of its key stages; the general
              tendency is visible already in the interpolations in Mark (as in the
              forgiving of sins by Jesus in the Healing of the Paralytic scene, which may
              be sliced out of that story leaving a perfectly satisfactory healing
              narrative behind it; demonstration on request). And of course in the
              Incarnation narratives in Matthew and, following him and improving on him in
              a proletarian direction, Luke.

              Another question that exercised the 1c was the God/Man nature of Jesus. We
              see in the Gospel of John an insistence on the physical reality of Jesus
              (with Thomas as the rhetorical fall guy), which goes back to that in Luke,
              whose risen Jesus eats - but where he also passes through closed doors
              like a spirit, reflecting a certain amount of mixed tradition in that text.
              Which element in the mixture is the older? Obviously the spirit appearance
              one, and why? Because that is the only form implied by Paul's account of the
              various appearances, including his own (nor does the drastic rewrite in Acts
              require to be taken otherwise).

              So again the Incarnation: Mark does not have it (and the rest of Mark's text
              shows the divine power of Jesus as conferred in quite a different way), and
              given the overridden beginning of Luke at Lk 3:1, it was not original in
              Luke either. It is a new theoretical development as of the Second Tier
              Synoptics (wherever one likes to date them), and it goes on to later develop
              into the cosmically pre-existent Jesus of the Gospel of John and of several
              other late 1c texts. In short, there is what I have called a Divinization
              Trajectory, developing and continually expanding over the whole course of
              the 1c. That the issue continued to be regarded as important by Christian
              theorists of the 2c and later is good information, but it does not change
              the 1c information.

              ALPHA CHRISTIANITY

              The meaning of many terms gets argued over in this field, but Alpha
              Christianity is a term I made up myself, and therefore it means whatever I
              say it means :0).

              Unfortunately for precision of discourse, I don't yet know what it means; it
              is a work in progress. I feel that the roots are firm (or I wouldn't be
              bothering people by mentioning it), but the way the branches grow and
              intertwine is still under study (or I wouldn't be bothering people for
              suggestions, or for corrections of my own previous suggestions).

              What I think is secure is that Jesus did preach during his lifetime, and
              though the late layers of Mark show him as disavowing that teaching as
              thoroughly and intentionally erroneous, I think the early layers of Mark
              need to be respected as reporting an early perception of Jesus. This first
              Markan Jesus taught a way of salvation that was sufficiently distinctive
              within Judaism to earn him opposition by the legalistic element within
              Judaism (as Mark goes to great lengths to show), and he got a wide popular
              hearing for that Way (as Mark goes to equally great lengths to show). He and
              his followers (originally Five, the cumulative roster of the Five eventually
              reached Twelve, where it was frozen for obvious symbolic reasons) preached
              that Way not only in Galilee but all over Syria and points north, and in the
              years after Jesus's death, the Twelve continued to preach it, in Alexandria
              (whence Apollos) and in Macedonia (whence the Alpha hymn in Philippians 2,
              reflecting early liturgical praxis in Macedonia), and of course also in
              Antioch and Edessa and in the part of India that was reached in that period
              by regular Roman commerce, namely the west coast of India, and in Corinth
              and in Rome itself. The exploits of these early Alpha missionaries were
              highly mythologized already in the middle 1c, and of course even more
              fantastically elaborated in later rewrites and expansions. But the core
              apparently underlying those expansions not only makes sense, it is necessary
              to assume something very like it to account for the Alpha factions that Paul
              continually encountered, in Galatia, in Macedonia, in Corinth, and yes, in
              Rome. In all these places, the Alpha missions had evidently been there
              before him.

              Wherever he got it from, Paul preached a Beta or Atonement Christianity; its
              simplest formulation as against Alpha theory is the faith vs works crux that
              emerges in 1 Cor and in Romans, with its Alpha reply in the second layer of
              interpolations in the Epistle of Jacob, this being a real time exchange in
              the year 56. It is said in Paul's defense that this formulation doesn't
              fairly represent the whole range of Paul's thought. Well, so it goes. Paul
              himself articulated his thought in that way as of that particular paragraph.

              I have to think that this is at least one of the key Alpha/Beta contrasts:
              is it what we do that saves us, or is it what Jesus has done for us? In the
              former case, works are key; in the latter, faith in Jesus (so as to make
              available to us the work he has done for us, however exactly that work of
              Jesus be defined).

              But there are other elements too, other points of difference, and I am still
              learning what they are. Part of what I have recently arrived at via
              continued reading and thinking and listening to other people (whether right
              or wrong - other people's errors are sometimes more revealing than hours of
              one's own unaided reflection) is the following:

              Alpha was primitive, but it did not remain primitive; it developed along
              with all other strands of Jesus belief, not only theoretically (it took part
              in the movement to divinize Jesus, so that a high Christology" is not
              necessarily a Beta indicator), but liturgically. As to the strands of Jesus
              belief, there were surely a good many of these - the little believer groups
              planted by the first missionaries were not in touch with each other, and
              they were thus subject to different initial influences and to different
              ongoing stimuli from outside, and so as Alpha developed, it did not
              necessarily develop in the same way in all places. We must therefore expect
              some variety, including some variety in how Alpha and Beta adapted to each
              other, before the final split which we observe happening in several places
              at the end of the 1c.

              ASIDE ON UNIFORMITY OF DOCTRINE

              It was precisely the invention of the cyclical letter [our only intact
              sample is the Epistle of Jacob; there are imitations in the DeuteroPaulines]
              which made it possible to keep some kind of doctrinal order among these
              original convert groups. The evolution of local authorities, whether called
              teachers (this development being gently resisted in the Epistle of Jacob) or
              deacons or bishops, is a later way of handling the problem. Nor did even
              this organizational evolution proceed by a single path. We can see Clement
              trying to exert doctrinal authority over Corinth, not technically within his
              area of responsibility. And I find convincing the theory of someone
              (Streeter?) that in Alexandria at any rate, the invention of the Archbishop
              may have preceded that of the Bishop. The question of days of observance was
              still dividing eastern and western Christianity in the 2nd century, and it
              seems that this division is still with us today; so genuine unity and
              uniformity of doctrine and a single chain of command and adjudication seem
              never to have been precisely achieved. Was Tertullian orthodox?

              Again, the *concept* of unity among all these groups and municipalities was
              already expressed in the 1c (the church as the body of Christ, in several
              variants, or as the Bride of Christ), but not fully realized institutionally
              either then nor in any later period of which I have information. So for me,
              a phrase like "the early church" is intrinsically erroneous: the earlier we
              look, the less the thing we look at looks like a singular church, and the
              more it looks like a lot of separate and incipiently independent small
              congregations scattered over the map of the Mediterranean.

              THE CHRISTIANITY OF ALPHA

              Several people, over the years since I first put some of these ideas
              forward, have reacted as Tom does above: how can these Alpha people be
              Christians if they don't believe in the saving death of Christ? The answer,
              I suggest, is given in an early Alpha text, the Didache. In sections 9:2 and
              9:3, the prayers over the cup and the bread, we have spelled out for us, in
              a prescribed uniform text amounting to a credal statement, what it is that
              the believers are to thank God for, and it is the following (tr Varner):

              9:2. We give you thanks, our Father,
              For the hold vine of your servant David
              Which you revealed to us through your servant Jesus.
              To you is the glory forever.

              9:3. We give you thanks, our Father,
              for the life and the knowledge,
              which you revealed to us through your servant Jesus
              To you is the glory forever.

              The echo here is Isaiah 52:13, meaning that Isaiah is not solely the proving
              ground of the Beta theoreticians; everybody was using it.

              The point is that there is here no thanks for the saving death of Jesus
              (which IS celebrated in other early hymns, and thus was demonstrably not an
              unspeakable doctrine), but rather for the way of salvation which God has
              revealed through Jesus. This turns out to be not grace, in other words, but
              "knowledge."

              And that "knowledge" seems to have been pretty simple. When Mark shows Jesus
              preaching or explaining, what he says is simple too: obeying the shorter
              Decalogue will do it for you, and never mind the later quiddlings of the
              Pharisees. It is so simple that even a child can understand it (as Jesus
              himself says, in so many words, in Mark). And it is precisely as "childish"
              that the author of Hebrews chides it - the author of Hebrews, with his
              fantastically elaborate transfer of the whole Hebrew sacrificial tradition
              into Jesus terms, where alone it finally becomes efficacious, and with Jesus
              as his own high priest. (I have the impression that this beautifully worked
              out but colossally unconvincing structure is a little off the later
              Christian mainstream - I wasn't myself instructed in it as a cardinal matter
              of belief in my early years - but that mainstream is not my subject, and I
              gladly leave it to others).

              Whether they were right or wrong in the soteriological scheme of things (and
              on this, I guess the jury is still out), I think that it is the Alphas that
              the Epistle of Jacob is taking up the cudgel for against Paul, and that it
              is the Alpahs that the Didache is writing prayers for, and that it is the
              Alphas that the author of Hebrews is gently chiding, lest they remain stuck
              forever on their infantile Gerber's Strained Carrots version of
              Christianity, and not go on to the Advanced Level, with its new take on
              baptism (seen by Paul not as a symbolical cleansing from sin, but as a
              symbolic re-enactment of the death and resurrection of Jesus) and other
              matters.

              Anyway, thanks again to Tom for commenting on the shortcomings of the Alpha
              Christianity web page or pages, even if to me some of them count rather as
              virtues - the errors need to be fixed and even the virtues surely need to be
              updated, or at minimum more clearly presented. That page is at this very
              moment in the process of being detached from its SBL handout and meeting
              prospectus function, and converted to a role as an ondoing bulletin board
              for how Alpha studies are progressing in the current world.

              Let me end this after all not so brief note by repeating the offer made on
              that page, and also at the Alpha meeting at SBL: our group is in principle
              interested in understanding the Alpha strain in early Christianity. We would
              like to know of printed contributions, and would like to see yet unprinted
              contributions, in that direction. I have already tentatively contacted the
              authors of some of the more interesting SBL papers in that sense, and hope
              in good time to hear from others not yet known to HQ. I can be contacted
              off-list at any time.

              Bruce

              E Bruce Brooks
              Research Professor of Chinese
              Warring States Project
              University of Massachusetts at Amherst

              http://www.umass.edu/wsp/journal/wsp1/index.html
            • Bob Schacht
              I am enjoying the colloquy among Brooks, Mealand and Kopecek. I tend to agree with Kopecek that the term Alpha Christianity seems inapt for what Brooks has
              Message 6 of 17 , Dec 13, 2010
                I am enjoying the colloquy among Brooks, Mealand and Kopecek. I tend
                to agree with Kopecek that the term "Alpha Christianity" seems inapt
                for what Brooks has in mind. I think Beta Judaism might be more
                accurate. But of course the Ebionites and Nazoreans were not the only
                Beta Judaisms in the First Century. There were also Zealots, many of
                whom came to an end at Masada, or during the Bar Kochba rebellion.
                And then there were the Essenes, whether they were the people of Dead
                Sea Scrolls fame, or not. Understanding the varieties of Beta Judaism
                in the First Century would help us understand the context of the
                historical Jesus much better.

                So, ISTM, Bruce has his labels all turned around. Besides re-framing
                his Alpha Christianity as Beta Judaism, what he calls Beta
                Christianity might better be called Alpha Christianity, because they
                were the first to call themselves that (Tacitus, Josephus and other
                outsiders notwithstanding).

                I don't recall the Letter of Clement, or Clement himself, mentioned
                thus far, except indirectly in Kopecek's reference to the
                psuedo-Clementines. Is his Letter relevant to this issue?

                Bob Schacht
                Northern Arizona University

                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • E Bruce Brooks
                To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG, Bart Ehrman In Response To: Tom Kopecek, Bob Schacht On: Alpha Christianity From: Bruce I had defined Alpha Christianity as the doctrine
                Message 7 of 17 , Dec 13, 2010
                  To: Crosstalk
                  Cc: GPG, Bart Ehrman
                  In Response To: Tom Kopecek, Bob Schacht
                  On: Alpha Christianity
                  From: Bruce

                  I had defined Alpha Christianity as the doctrine and practice of the first
                  followers of Jesus, those who were converted by him during his lifetime, and
                  who subsequently preached repentance and a modified nomism as sufficient for
                  salvation, and did not rely on the death of Jesus as a saving event. I had
                  defined Beta Christianity as those 1c persons and groups, such as Paul, for
                  whom the saving death of Jesus *was* an important belief. There were several
                  objections:

                  TOM: I cannot recall any good evidence from the Fathers that either the
                  Ebionites or the Nazoreans called themselves 'Christians'. Hence using the
                  expression 'Alpha CHRISTIANITY' might not be the best way to designate their
                  historical antecedent. The evidence suggests that both the Ebionites and the
                  Nazoreans viewed themselves as simply Jews--'Jews for Jesus', as it were.

                  BOB: I tend to agree with Kopecek that the term "Alpha Christianity" seems
                  inapt
                  for what Brooks has in mind. I think Beta Judaism might be more accurate.

                  BRUCE: So some have felt, but I suspect that this limitation of the term
                  "Christian" is not analytically tenable. First, established usage gives us
                  "Christian" as the name for the followers of Jesus, irrespective of their
                  specific beliefs within the available spectrum.

                  And I think there can be no doubt that there *was* a spectrum; that there
                  were many varieties of belief and practice among the 1c followers of Jesus.
                  So saith Georg Strecker in the first paragraph of his introduction to Walter
                  Bauer's book Heresy and Orthodoxy (orig 1937), and so also Bauer himself in
                  the first page of the book. If that seems too old-fashioned, there is also
                  Bart Ehrman's book Lost Christianities (2003). And if any missed that, let
                  me quote from its beginnings:

                  "This is a book about the wide diversity of ancient Christianity and its
                  sacred texts." (Preface, first line).

                  "It may be difficult to imagine a religious phenomenon more diverse than
                  modern-day Christianity . . . Many of these Christian groups, of course,
                  refuse to consider other such groups Christian." (Introduction, first
                  paragraph).

                  "What could be more diverse than this variegated phenomenon, Christianity in
                  the modern world? In fact, there may be an answer: Christianity in the
                  ancient world." (Introduction, third paragraph).

                  In the views of churchly writers of later ages, eg Epiphanius, there were
                  many varieties of wrong belief in Christianity, and Epiphanius for one
                  wearieth not of thinking up (or re-using, since at some point the dictionary
                  gives out) bad names for them. He does not spend much time or emotion in
                  combating beliefs outside Christianity (eg, Platonism or the Dionysian
                  Mysteries or the number mysticism of Pythagoras); his target is the
                  insidious and hateful wrong beliefs within Christianity, the things that one
                  normally means by "heresy."

                  Needless to say, the Ebionites for one might have had quite a different list
                  of what was IN and what was OUT. As Epiphanius catalogues their agreements
                  as well as their departures from his own doctrines, we can see how far they
                  overlapped with the recognizably Christian position. And there looks to be a
                  lot of overlap. Some of these groups, for Goodness' sake, used the Gospel of
                  Matthew, or a local variant of it. And the Gospel of Matthew, as far as that
                  goes, is manifestly a local variant of the earlier Gospel of Mark, and
                  reverses some of the doctrinal positions taken by Mark. Which of the two is
                  the true Christian text, and which is the damnably misleading heretical
                  text?

                  And as between Matthew and the Gospel of Luke there is a wide gulf of social
                  position and sympathy, roughly rich vs poor. If Matthew is orthodox, then
                  are the Ebionites (who used it) IN, and is Luke (who rewrote it with
                  doctrinal changes) OUT? Or if poverty is in fact the key saving virtue, is
                  Matthew with his large sums of money OUT, and are Luke (Lazarus) and the
                  Ebionites (who on their own account became poor by accepting Apostolic
                  teachings, which are recommended also in Mark) IN? Such are the unhelpful
                  dilemmas into which the proposed restriction of the term "Christian" would
                  tend to land us. I recommend that we do otherwise. If some group of people
                  feel themselves to be followers of Jesus, then the standard modern term for
                  them is "Christians." That not all "Christians" agree among themselves about
                  specific operational details is merely a fact of life. I think we need to
                  keep aware of the facts of life.

                  Again, Is baptism Christian? It is never said to have been practiced by
                  Jesus, and gJohn specifically says that it was an innovation of the
                  disciples. Then those who practice it are departing from the practice of
                  Jesus, and if only the true followers of Jesus are saved, then these
                  baptizing persons are surely damned to hell (if any) for all of eternity (if
                  any). Such thoughts are divisive, and it may be better not to have them.

                  More mildly, given baptism as within the sphere of "Christian" practice,
                  though obviously not part of its *original* practice, is infant baptism
                  valid? The Didache thinks not; a period of instruction and intellectual
                  assent (not to mention fasting) must precede. My Methodist grandfather
                  agreed with the Didache, but his West Carrollton (Ohio) congregation liked
                  it, and in practice, he accommodated them. The Didache itself, though rigid
                  on that point, is accommodating on a different point: baptism by immersion
                  in running water: Which it stipulates, but if that is not available, the
                  Didache allows that still water will do, and in a pinch, even aspersion will
                  do. The recent Plymouth Brethren (to mention only them) would have had none
                  of such weak-spined compromising, and would have demanded, indeed they did
                  demand, total immersion, and if a convert had previously been baptized in
                  another way, that person had to undergo rebaptism by immersion. So it still
                  goes, and so it also probably went (as the NT texts massively witness) in
                  the 1c. In this learned company, I surely do not need to cite, as a further
                  example of differences ove baptism, Paul's rebaptism of certain "disciples"
                  in Acts.

                  It seems to me that if we draw a hard "Christian" line between any of these
                  positions on baptism, we will probably fail to get the flavor of the 1c
                  controversies about baptism. These are not disputes between converts and
                  nonconverts, that is, between Jews and Christians; they are disputes among
                  Christians. So also down a whole list of beliefs and practices. Are
                  docetists Christians? Are Montanists Christians? Are Quartodecimans
                  Christians? Are Albigensians Christians? Were the now extinct Thomas
                  Christians Christians?

                  Is sexual intercourse allowable for Christians? Paul thought that ideally it
                  was not, but he was prepared to be accommodating toward those who felt
                  otherwise, and for them he recommended marriage as the least worst option.
                  This, of course, in direct opposition to Jesus, who tacitly approved
                  marriage and indeed forbade divorce (the Gospel of John, here as at many
                  other points concerned to counter mistaken ideas current in its time,
                  underlines Jesus's acceptance of marriage with the invented Miracle at
                  Cana). On the other hand, Paul is wishy-washy in comparison with the
                  teaching of the apostles, who outranked Paul in seniority and in directness
                  of credentials, and who we are thus to believe if we believe anybody later
                  than Jesus, and whose teachings (if there is any kernal of fact in the
                  vastly elaborated Apostolic literature), and I mean to include the teachings
                  of Peter as well as those of Thomas, were against marriage or any other kind
                  of sexual activity, and for lifelong celibacy. That advocacy of lifelong
                  celibacy still has wide acceptance today, among groups which it would be
                  analytically troublesome not to call "Christian."

                  Was Paul a Christian? Most would answer Yes. Was Marcion a Christian? Not to
                  risk getting wrong answers on the midterm, I will give the answer: Yes, he
                  was. He was an extreme Paulinist Christian, or what, on the example of our
                  Marxist brethren, I might style a right-deviationist Christian: Pauline on
                  some issues, but without the Pauline accommodations. Orthodox in a direction
                  which was not the one taken by the eventual orthodoxy: a contender in the
                  race to firm up doctrine and its supporting texts.

                  It's like with a poem I might write; the severe critic may be tempted to
                  say, That thing is no poem. But it is analytically more fruitful to say
                  merely, It is a bad poem. We can then discuss what makes a good poem, or
                  what different things different ages felt made a good poem, and lots of good
                  stuff like that.

                  So recommended.

                  Bruce

                  E Bruce Brooks
                  Warring States Project
                  University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                • David Mealand
                  Bruce proposes a contrast between those people and texts which remained loyal to an earlier phase of the movement begun by Jesus, and people and texts
                  Message 8 of 17 , Dec 14, 2010
                    Bruce proposes a contrast between those people and texts which remained
                    loyal to an earlier phase of the movement begun by Jesus,
                    and people and texts representing what I would call phase two.
                    He also rightly notes the very wide variety of beliefs and
                    practices beyond this main binary division, and perhaps also
                    sometimes cutting across it. I would agree up to this point.

                    Tom Kopecek rightly presses the following point:

                    "the issue that must be faced is what exactly are 'the right items'"

                    i.e. what is the best way of focusing on the main binary division
                    between phase 1 motifs and phase 2 motifs while not ignoring all
                    the other complex cross currents.

                    Not easy to answer. That part of the answer is that phase two has
                    a "stronger" version of propositions about the status of Jesus and
                    the effect of his teachings and of his death seems not unreasonable. But
                    once we try to specify that more accurately it gets much harder.
                    Suppose we try a series of later to earlier statements:

                    Proposition G (for Greek Orthodox) runs:
                    "The tradition holds that God became one of us so that we might be
                    made like God".
                    This proposition is asserted in various forms, often with a rhetorical
                    exuberance that leaves caution behind the starting block - a soteriology of
                    divinization based on a Christology of an incarnate divine Word. This is
                    a far end phase 2 so sweeping in character that it induces in those of
                    other traditions a rather sharp intake of breath.
                    Appeal is often made to the partial precedent in 2 Peter 1.4, and
                    reference might be made to Eph. 3.19 9 and the like for more modest
                    but still quite strong expressions of an earlier phase 2 development.
                    Rather than press the details of inner phase 2 distinctions it might
                    be better to look for a phase 1 comparison/contrast.

                    Suppose we take what I would regard as a phase 1 motif about
                    forgiveness. This is that hearers should extend to others the
                    forgiveness they themselves have experienced. This is interesting as
                    it is more complex than a simple moral proposition that people ought to be
                    forgiving, or that forgiveness is a virtue etc. It grounds forgiving
                    others in something more implied than elucidated. If forgiveness is here
                    held to be an attribute of God, then Jesus would be in agreement with Hosea
                    on that point. But the Synoptic motif envisages hearers displaying an
                    attribute
                    that is attributed to God. There is further biblical precedent of a kind,
                    of course, in that behind Lk.6.36 & par. (be merciful as...) lies Lev. 19.2.

                    Both phase 1 and phase 2 type propositions envisage qualities attributed
                    to God becoming qualities of people in the community, both involve
                    some notion of human transformation, both also give a significant role
                    to Jesus. But they are decidedly not the same. The Greek patristic view
                    is more overtly metaphysical, but the phase 1 view has an irreducible element
                    of that in it also. We cannot simply assert that there is no difference
                    between them, but nor can it be said that they are unconnected. So I feel
                    obliged to agree to there being a serious difference, while not contesting
                    that one is a development from the other, (or one of several such).

                    This may not get us very far though it is an attempt. But all through I have
                    the sense that what is written above keeps trying to say things which
                    also have to be unsaid.

                    David M.



                    ---------
                    David Mealand, University of Edinburgh






                    -----

                    --
                    The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
                    Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
                  • E Bruce Brooks
                    To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: David Mealand On: Alpha and Beta From: Bruce DAVID: Bruce proposes a contrast between those people and texts which
                    Message 9 of 17 , Dec 16, 2010
                      To: Crosstalk
                      Cc: GPG
                      In Response To: David Mealand
                      On: Alpha and Beta
                      From: Bruce

                      DAVID: Bruce proposes a contrast between those people and texts which
                      remained
                      loyal to an earlier phase of the movement begun by Jesus, and people and
                      texts representing what I would call phase two.

                      BRUCE: The terms "Phase 1" etc imply a strict succession in time, and that
                      may eventually be a problem. I am finding out that though Alpha was first,
                      it continued to develop alongside Beta, and (perhaps differently in
                      different places) came to overlap somewhat with Beta - working
                      accommodations were reached, hymnologically as well as otherwise, in this or
                      that little congregation. That is, in particular situations, we can't always
                      expect Alpha to be primitive and Beta advanced. I think the terms "Alpha"
                      and "Beta" better lend themselves to statements of this kind; that is, they
                      more easily shed their "succession" meaning: Alpha doesn't stop when Beta
                      begins. Still recommended accordingly.

                      DAVID: He also rightly notes the very wide variety of beliefs and practices
                      beyond this main binary division, and perhaps also sometimes cutting across
                      it. I would agree up to this point.

                      BRUCE: Fine with me; welcome to the club.

                      DAVID: Tom Kopecek rightly presses the following point: "the issue that must
                      be faced is what exactly are 'the right items'" - i.e. what is the best way
                      of focusing on the main binary division between phase 1 motifs and phase 2
                      motifs while not ignoring all
                      the other complex cross currents

                      BRUCE: Here as everywhere in historical research, all I can think of is to
                      let the sources do the work for us. What they feel important about, we are
                      probably entitled to take as important too. One thing they take as important
                      is certainly the faith vs works controversy (eg the Epistle of Jacob vs the
                      Epistle of Paul to the Romans, where both sides are visibly upset - red in
                      the face and sputtering - about the other's opinion). This is the more
                      likely to be an important issue since it touches on who gets into Heaven,
                      which was probably a big deal, and less on what you have for lunch, or who
                      you have it with, which is nearer the small housekeeping end of the scale.

                      At best, though, it's not so easy, and I for one feel entitled to improve my
                      first ideas as I go along. For example, I previously thought that the
                      Resurrection was a good Alpha/Beta dividing line, but I have since found
                      that what otherwise seem to be both kinds of Christians can get sort of
                      along with the idea of the Resurrection, even though they attach different
                      theological weight to it - one group might see it as a prior demonstration
                      of the possibility of their being saved also (the "first fruits" approach),
                      and another might see it as part of the Atonement scenario (the verb
                      "bought" comes in here).

                      The strategy of coexistence in a mixed congregation should not be forgotten.
                      No Baptist whose church ever merged with the Methodists over the summer, to
                      save money, will fail to recognize the situation.

                      DAVID: Not easy to answer. That part of the answer is that phase two has a
                      "stronger" version of propositions about the status of Jesus and the effect
                      of his teachings and of his death seems not unreasonable.

                      BRUCE: I think not so much "stronger" as simply different. Alpha (to use my
                      term) followed the simple and very Jewish idea that good deeds are better
                      than bad deeds, while (in the spirit of the Minor Prophets) trying to get
                      rid of a lot of Pharisaic underbrush in the list of good deeds that were
                      consequential for salvation. Beta, as I see it, did not exactly strengthen
                      this; rather, it replaced it with a different way of having your sins
                      forgiven: Jesus did it for you by his death.

                      Of course the Alpha idea persisted alongside the Beta idea, as it could
                      hardly but have done (no society can really dispense for long with the idea
                      that good deeds are better than bad deeds). So the word "repentance" occurs
                      in Paul, and the idea that some actions are forbidden while some are
                      encouraged still gets scope in Paul (though more scope, let me add, in 1
                      Thess than in some of the later authentic writings). Logically (and I think
                      it is in just this logic that Paul gets himself inextricably tangled), if
                      Jesus's death saves, then personal repentance and forgivenness cannot also
                      save, and vice versa: if you can get into Heaven by following a cut-down
                      Decalogue, then the death of Jesus is of no import in the scheme of
                      salvation. Paul is welcome to the tangles in which his logical (or anyway,
                      legalistic) mind wraps him. It might be noted that later (deutero) Pauline
                      writings do not draw that same uncrossable line in the sand; for instance,
                      the Pastorals unashamedly recommend good works.

                      It's a mess, but partly, I think, because we are not used to looking for
                      these elements in the extant texts. As time passes, and attention continues
                      to be given, I think the large issues will get clearer, though it can be
                      expected that local variations and emphases will always present a
                      complicated surface.

                      Bruce

                      E Bruce Brooks
                      Warring States Project
                      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                    • David Mealand
                      ... I think this does indeed point to where the problem lies. Despite the so-called new approach to Paul, it is fairly clear that a huge amount of NT
                      Message 10 of 17 , Dec 16, 2010
                        >
                        > One thing they take as important
                        > is certainly the faith vs works controversy
                        >

                        I think this does indeed point to where the problem lies.
                        Despite the so-called new approach to Paul, it is fairly clear
                        that a huge amount of NT scholarship still to some extent views
                        Paul with a pair of spectacles fashioned by Augustine,
                        and supplied with even stronger lenses by Luther and Calvin.
                        Some idea of another way of viewing Paul can be found in the
                        approach to Romans by Origen in the East, and by Abelard
                        in the Latin West. Of commentaries on Romans since 1900
                        the one which appears least under the influence of the
                        polemical later Augustinian writings is the modest volume by C.H.Dodd.
                        But to go over all this in detail would be a very long and wearisome story.

                        Rather than do that here I would simply wish to restate my view
                        that type A and type B versions do differ, but do not lack
                        connection, and that specifying the way they differ is more
                        problematic than it appears.

                        I agree that type A persisted in various forms - at least as late as
                        the edited versions of the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions,
                        with their portrayal of Jesus as the true prophet. But the
                        evidence for type A is much more limited, (and trying to
                        get earlier sources out of the Clementina is no easy task).

                        David M.





                        ---------
                        David Mealand, University of Edinburgh


                        --
                        The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
                        Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
                      • Bob Schacht
                        ... [snip] ... I think you may have a soteriological problem here, and perhaps you re not really letting your sources do as much of the work as you intend. I
                        Message 11 of 17 , Dec 16, 2010
                          At 01:01 AM 12/16/2010, E Bruce Brooks wrote:
                          >To: Crosstalk
                          >Cc: GPG
                          >In Response To: David Mealand
                          >On: Alpha and Beta
                          >From: Bruce

                          [snip]

                          >BRUCE: Here as everywhere in historical research, all I can think of is to
                          >let the sources do the work for us. What they feel important about, we are
                          >probably entitled to take as important too. One thing they take as important
                          >is certainly the faith vs works controversy (eg the Epistle of Jacob vs the
                          >Epistle of Paul to the Romans, where both sides are visibly upset - red in
                          >the face and sputtering - about the other's opinion). This is the more
                          >likely to be an important issue since it touches on who gets into Heaven,
                          >which was probably a big deal, and less on what you have for lunch, or who
                          >you have it with, which is nearer the small housekeeping end of the scale....

                          I think you may have a soteriological problem here, and perhaps
                          you're not really letting your sources do as much of the work as you intend.
                          I think you're assuming that the main problem of "salvation" was
                          focused on "who gets into heaven," which, ISTM, is a somewhat
                          anachronistic view of soteriology based on later theological
                          controversies-- or at least a partisan issue of concern to some
                          groups but not others. I will grant you the pericope of the Rich Man
                          and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31, no parallels), but for many First Century
                          Jews, IIRC, "salvation" was as much a *worldly and collective
                          political* issue as an *otherworldly and individual* issue. Think of
                          the zealots, for example. The Jesus Seminar was divided even about
                          whether the Rich Man and Lazarus pericope is traceable to Jesus
                          himself. There's a danger in viewing First Century theological issues
                          from the perspective of later theological controversies. Luke seems
                          more interested in salvation (soterios?) than the other gospels, so
                          this seems to be a Lukan issue.


                          Bob Schacht
                          Northern Arizona University

                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Thomas Kopecek
                          I d add to what Bob has said that a good deal of the salvation language of the earliest churches was eschatological, that is, it looked forward to experiencing
                          Message 12 of 17 , Dec 16, 2010
                            I'd add to what Bob has said that a good deal of the salvation language of the earliest churches was eschatological, that is, it looked forward to experiencing the New Age that Jesus would inaugurate when he would 'come again'. Now, of course, Paul, who generally held to this view IMO, does also speak about "the Jerusalem above," but it appears that he meant roughly what the Apocalypse of John meant in its ch 21.

                            Tom

                            ________________
                            Thomas A. Kopecek
                            1536 Elk Horn Drive
                            Otley, Iowa 50214-8513


                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Bob Schacht
                            Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 10:30 AM
                            To: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com
                            Subject: Salvation Re: [XTalk] comparing betas with alphas

                            At 01:01 AM 12/16/2010, E Bruce Brooks wrote:
                            >To: Crosstalk
                            >Cc: GPG
                            >In Response To: David Mealand
                            >On: Alpha and Beta
                            >From: Bruce

                            [snip]

                            >BRUCE: Here as everywhere in historical research, all I can think of is to
                            >let the sources do the work for us. What they feel important about, we are
                            >probably entitled to take as important too. One thing they take as important
                            >is certainly the faith vs works controversy (eg the Epistle of Jacob vs the
                            >Epistle of Paul to the Romans, where both sides are visibly upset - red in
                            >the face and sputtering - about the other's opinion). This is the more
                            >likely to be an important issue since it touches on who gets into Heaven,
                            >which was probably a big deal, and less on what you have for lunch, or who
                            >you have it with, which is nearer the small housekeeping end of the scale....

                            I think you may have a soteriological problem here, and perhaps
                            you're not really letting your sources do as much of the work as you intend.
                            I think you're assuming that the main problem of "salvation" was
                            focused on "who gets into heaven," which, ISTM, is a somewhat
                            anachronistic view of soteriology based on later theological
                            controversies-- or at least a partisan issue of concern to some
                            groups but not others. I will grant you the pericope of the Rich Man
                            and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31, no parallels), but for many First Century
                            Jews, IIRC, "salvation" was as much a *worldly and collective
                            political* issue as an *otherworldly and individual* issue. Think of
                            the zealots, for example. The Jesus Seminar was divided even about
                            whether the Rich Man and Lazarus pericope is traceable to Jesus
                            himself. There's a danger in viewing First Century theological issues
                            from the perspective of later theological controversies. Luke seems
                            more interested in salvation (soterios?) than the other gospels, so
                            this seems to be a Lukan issue.


                            Bob Schacht
                            Northern Arizona University

                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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                          • E Bruce Brooks
                            To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Bob Schacht On: Soteriology From: Bruce BOB: I think you re assuming that the main problem of salvation was focused on
                            Message 13 of 17 , Dec 16, 2010
                              To: Crosstalk
                              Cc: GPG
                              In Response To: Bob Schacht
                              On: Soteriology
                              From: Bruce

                              BOB: I think you're assuming that the main problem of "salvation" was
                              focused on "who gets into heaven," which, ISTM, is a somewhat anachronistic
                              view of soteriology based on later theological controversies--

                              BRUCE: Undoubtedly also of later concern, including to some people now
                              living. The question is whether it also occurred to people in the 1c. I find
                              it in the preaching of John the Baptist. Don't you?

                              BOB: . . .or at least a partisan issue of concern to some groups but not
                              others.

                              BRUCE: If even some, then I think we are in business in the 1c. There were
                              probably few propositions which everybody at the time would have agreed on.
                              As long as the question of saved vs damned is on the map, I think the
                              previous position will stand. And can this be proved? I note inter alia the
                              hellfire section of Mark: Better to go to heaven with one eye than to be
                              cast into Hell with two. To what personal or collective concern does this
                              probably relate?

                              BOB: I will grant you the pericope of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke
                              16:19-31, no parallels),

                              BRUCE: An extreme Lukan poverty = virtue position, visible elswhere in Luke
                              and thus not some kind of scribal error, but perhaps a little off to one
                              side of the mainstream. It is however its own stream: it has near precedents
                              in the angrier layers of the Epistle of James/Jacob. I warmly recommend
                              reading this piece. But I don't think it is vital for the current main
                              question. That question, if I have not lost track of the thread, is, Did
                              people at this time care where they went when they died? And did some people
                              associate their hope of a good outcome with Jesus? I have to think the
                              answer is Yes.

                              BOB: . . .but for many First Century Jews, IIRC, "salvation" was as much a
                              *worldly and collective political* issue as an *otherworldly and individual*
                              issue.

                              BRUCE: Sure. But we are here talking, or anyway I am trying to talk, about
                              First Century Christians, of one stripe or another. The existence of Jews
                              does not disprove the existence of Christians. (And Bob's formulation leaves
                              room for diversity of opinion among even Jews, which seems to be handsomely
                              well documented elsewhere).

                              The existence of one viewpoint does not disprove the existence of another
                              viewpoint.

                              Bruce

                              E Bruce Brooks
                              Warring States Project
                              University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                            • E Bruce Brooks
                              To: Crosstalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Tom Kopacek On: Eschatology From: Bruce TOM: I d add to what Bob has said that a good deal of the salvation language of
                              Message 14 of 17 , Dec 16, 2010
                                To: Crosstalk
                                Cc: GPG
                                In Response To: Tom Kopacek
                                On: Eschatology
                                From: Bruce

                                TOM: I'd add to what Bob has said that a good deal of the salvation language
                                of the earliest churches was eschatological, that is, it looked forward to
                                experiencing the New Age that Jesus would inaugurate when he would 'come
                                again'.

                                BRUCE: Right away I am having trouble. I have always found the word
                                "eschatology" difficult, because it can mean different things at different
                                times. Torrey tells us that the only meaning likely to be attached to
                                "Messiah" by Jews of Jesus's time was the Davidic ruler who would restore
                                the temporal dominance of Israel, in what would be otherwise a continuation
                                of the present world. The thing Tom describes looks somewhat like that,
                                though he can best gloss his phrase New Age. John the B seems to have
                                preached the end of the world as we know it, and some of the later 1c
                                Christian texts openly stipulate that the present world will end in fire.
                                The judgement attendant on such a conclusion, I suppose, would be the final
                                disposition of people now living (and those dead, who were provided for in
                                some options); they will get sorted into Heaven and Hell piles. Third, the
                                End Days can come for each person when he dies. Fourth, the New Age might be
                                the ongoing small community of believers in their present condition, though
                                maybe with fewer lions and less starvation. And there are probably others.

                                The fact that this sort of variety can be attested within the same Christian
                                century, and sometimes even within the same Christian text, only adds to the
                                confusion. But I would rather have the confusion than the term that serves
                                as a blanket for all or part of it, and I invite a paraphrase here.

                                TOM: Now, of course, Paul, who generally held to this view IMO, does also
                                speak about "the Jerusalem above," but it appears that he meant roughly what
                                the Apocalypse of John meant in its ch 21.

                                BRUCE: See? 1c variant theories as to what exactly is expected, and even
                                Paul seems to hold, or at least to acknowledge, different possibilties at
                                different times. Has anybody ever mapped that variation against the timeline
                                of Paul's writings? If so, I would love to know how they came out.

                                "My Kingdom is not of this world," that's one late 1c rationalization of the
                                failure of something or other to happen. "A thousand years are as one day to
                                God" is another, and perhaps not a very compatible, way of living with the
                                failure of that same thing - or maybe a different thing; how do I know?

                                It seems to me, accordingly, that it would be helpful to identify the
                                different options with different terms. Thus, the political Davidic
                                Restoration scenario, which certainly existed in the minds of some, might be
                                called the Messianic option. The end of the world in fire (or other suitable
                                element; I guess water had already been used) and the final judgement of
                                living and dead could be called, maybe, Apocalyptic. I await lexical
                                suggestions from my betters. I just don't feel comfortable discussing the
                                issue until I know exactly which issue someone (or some text they are
                                citing) has in mind.

                                Respectfully requested,

                                Bruce

                                E Bruce Brooks
                                Warring States Project
                                University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                              • Thomas Kopecek
                                Bruce: The subject of this post may be an old issue given the flow of the Alpha Christianity thread, but I m old too and so often can get to things only
                                Message 15 of 17 , Dec 16, 2010
                                  Bruce:

                                  The subject of this post may be an 'old' issue given the flow of the Alpha Christianity thread, but I'm old too and so often can get to things only slowly.

                                  I'm talking about the question of terminology I raised way back when. I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree. Unless you can explain why I am mistaken, what you call 'Alpha Christianity' I am going to consider simply 'Type A followers--or, perhaps, devotees--of Jesus' and what you call 'Beta Christianity' I'm going to consider 'Type B followers (or devotees) of Jesus'. Given your claim in your Tues, Dec 14 response to Bob Schacht that you are using " 'Christian' as the name for the followers of Jesus, irrespective of their specific beliefs within the available spectrum," and, I would add, irrespective of whether there is any evidence that they themselves called themselves Christian, your usage is fine with me.

                                  Yet I must register that I feel somewhat uncomfortable calling those persons Christians who referred to themselves otherwise. For example, one might construct an argument from Acts that the followers of Jesus about whom the author of that document is writing viewed themselves not as 'Christians' but as members of "The Way", a name, it appears, also employed by the members of the Qumran community. Some scholars, of course, argue that the term Christian as it is introduced in Acts 11:26 seems to be a term that 'outsiders' first used of the 'disciples of Jesus' (which, indeed, coheres with the other instance of the term in Acts, that is, in Acts 26:28, when "King Agrippa" is presented as saying to Paul, "Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?"). But at least the one other use of the term in the NT is employed by an 'insider', that is, by the author of 1 Peter at 4:16: "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."

                                  Tom

                                  ________________
                                  Thomas A. Kopecek
                                  1536 Elk Horn Drive
                                  Otley, Iowa 50214-8513




                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                • Thomas Kopecek
                                  Bruce (or any one else on the list with the resources): Toward the end of Bruce s Alpha Christianity 5 pages he gives at least a partial list of Alpha
                                  Message 16 of 17 , Dec 18, 2010
                                    Bruce (or any one else on the list with the resources):

                                    Toward the end of Bruce's 'Alpha Christianity 5 pages' he gives at least a partial list of 'Alpha Christianity' sources that have been, as he phrases it, "orthodoxized" by, I presume, 'Beta Christianity'. One of the items in this list is titled "The Hymn in Philippians 2 as reconstructed by Lohmeyer".

                                    I don't have access to the Lohmeyer text on which Bruce is drawing. If Bruce has a scan of the pages that contain the reconstruction, I'd appreciate seeing them. Failing that, if Bruce could paraphrase Lohmeyer's case for his reconstruction, that would be helpful. And failing a paraphrase, if Bruce--or anyone else on the list--could post at least the reconstruction itself, it might eventually help keep the thread alive.

                                    Tom

                                    ________________
                                    Thomas A. Kopecek
                                    1536 Elk Horn Drive
                                    Otley, Iowa 50214-8513
                                  • jgibson000@comcast.net
                                    ... I don t have Lohmeyer s text immediately available, but I do have Gerald F. Hawthorne summary of what Lohmeyer said: Lohmeyer sees the hymn as composed of
                                    Message 17 of 17 , Dec 18, 2010
                                      On 12/18/2010 4:05 PM, Thomas Kopecek wrote:
                                      > Bruce (or any one else on the list with the resources):
                                      >
                                      > Toward the end of Bruce's 'Alpha Christianity 5 pages' he gives at least a partial list of 'Alpha Christianity' sources that have been, as he phrases it, "orthodoxized" by, I presume, 'Beta Christianity'. One of the items in this list is titled "The Hymn in Philippians 2 as reconstructed by Lohmeyer".
                                      >
                                      > I don't have access to the Lohmeyer text on which Bruce is drawing. If Bruce has a scan of the pages that contain the reconstruction, I'd appreciate seeing them. Failing that, if Bruce could paraphrase Lohmeyer's case for his reconstruction, that would be helpful. And failing a paraphrase, if Bruce--or anyone else on the list--could post at least the reconstruction itself, it might eventually help keep the thread alive.
                                      >
                                      I don't have Lohmeyer's text immediately available, but I do have Gerald
                                      F. Hawthorne' summary of what Lohmeyer said:

                                      Lohmeyer sees the hymn as composed of six strophes of three lines
                                      each, with the first three strophes proclaiming the humiliation of
                                      Christ (vv 6–8) and the last three his exaltation (vv 9–11): A (v
                                      6); B (v 7a–b); C (vv 7c–8, but omitting the words θανάτου δὲ
                                      σταυροῦ, “even death on a cross,” as not being part of the original
                                      hymn); D (v 9); E (v 10); F (v 11; cf. Héring, RHPR 16 [1936]
                                      196–209; Benoit, Bonnard, Beare).


                                      I hope this is helpful until someone can provide a scan.

                                      Jeffrey

                                      --
                                      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                                      1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                                      Chicago, Illinois
                                      e-mail jgibson000@...
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