Mark Matson wrote:
> Doesn't Culpepper actually use the term "school" in a more specific
sense, i.e. like a "socratic school" which shows a very close
following of ideas? In other words for him this is not just a
disparate group of people who share a common belief (ala "green
party" enthusiasts who are sprinkled about in various places but who
all share a similar perspective), is it? Correct me if I'm wrong,
but wasn't Culpepper rather specifically suggesting a rather formal
group that was tightly connected and passed on the teaching of the
Your clarification is, of course, correct and conveys fully what I
was trying to say. To suggest that what united 'Johannine Christians'
was nothing more than some common theological/ideological
inclinations would be inappropriate and, I suppose, largely
anachronistic. Rather, I imagine something akin to the theological
parties referred to and denounced by St Paul in 1 Cor. 1.12:
'That is, that each one of you says: as for me, I belong to Paul; as
for me, I belong to Apollos; as for me, I belong to Cephas; as for
me, I belong to Christ.'
Note Paul's expression (although probably exaggerated for the sake of
rhetorical effect), 'each one of you'. Paul depicts and deplores a
situation where it is the predominant custom for Christians to pledge
allegiance to a 'school'. Such schools were evidently material
insofar as they claimed a special relationship to their founding
teacher, be it Paul or Christ.
The fact that there was apparently a 'school of Cephas' at Corinth
may enlighten us about two important aspects of such schools.
1. For all that we know, St Peter never visited the Corinithian
church, to found a particular school there or for any other reason.
The Petrine party at Corinth, therefore, was probably just a branch
of a more 'ecumenical' (in the original sense of the word) movement
devoted to preserving the teaching of Cephas. I suppose that its
members did not simply sympathize with Petrine ideas; these
Christians would rather view the apostle as their earthly leader. And
it would be most natural if there was also a local leader who
endeavoured to safeguard the Petrine heritage within the group at
2. Every Corinthian Christian, according to Paul, belonged to a
party; still, these parties were evidently able to co-exist with
others within one single particular church. Paul addresses
the 'Church of God at Corinth' and expects the letter to be read
aloud not only to those 'belonging to Paul' but also to
those 'belonging to Apollos, Cephas, and Christ'. Indeed the very
existence of such groupings is too much for Paul. But there is no
evidence that once there is a school with a single leader and a
distinct theology, there has also to be separate worshipping
communities who separate themselves totally from other Christians and
view the latter as antagonists. Quite the opposite. The Apollos party
at Corinth would not refuse to read/listen to a letter from the
founder-leader of the 'competing' Pauline school. Then why should we
suppose that Johannine Christians would reject and isolate themselves
from, e.g., the Synoptic Gospels?
Unfortunately, I do not have current access to Culpepper's work, and
I do not remember what he makes of 1 Cor. 1.12.
Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
Department of Religious Studies and Theology