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Ritual Failure and Theological Innovation in Early Christianity
Author: Peter-Ben Smit
In Felix culpa: Ritual Failure and Theological Innovation in Early Christianity, Peter-Ben Smit argues that ritual developments were key to the development of early Christianity. Focusing on rituals that go wrong, he shows precisely how ritual infelicities are a catalyst for reflection upon ritual and their development in terms of their performance as well as the meaning attributed to them. Smit discusses texts from the Pauline epistles and the Gospel of Mark, and provides a chapter on Philo of Alexandria by way of contextualization in the Greco-Roman world. By stressing the importance of ritual, the present book invites a reconsideration of all too doctrinally focused approaches to early Christian communities and identities. It also highlights the embodied and performative character of what being in Christ amounted to two millennia ago.

Abstract

As part of the deepening diversification of biblical studies, several lines of research are now undermining the print-cultural assumptions on which New Testament studies developed. The first section offers summaries of important inquiries into ancient communications media: the dominant oral communication and the uses of writing; revisionist text-criticism of manuscripts of texts later included in the Hebrew Bible; the oral-written cultivation of their cultural repertoire by Judean scribes; the parallel oral cultivation of Israelite popular tradition; revisionist criticism of Gospel texts; and the learning and oral performance of Gospel texts. These separate but related lines of research are undermining the standard print-cultural assumptions, concepts, and approaches of Jesus studies. The second section explores the implications of these researches that open toward an alternative view of what the sources are, a more comprehensive approach to the historical Jesus appropriate to ancient communications media, and a reconceptualization of Jesus studies.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Abstract

In his authentic letters, Paul describes a historical, human Jesus, but is strangely silent about the events of Jesus’ life. At the same time, Paul describes the figure of Christ using participatory language, and provides no reason to think that this collective embodiment of Christ does not also apply to Jesus’ historical body. I propose that Paul’s historical Jesus was therefore a corporate figure, embodied by the Jewish, pre-Christian community to which Jesus the Nazarene belonged. I present the literary background for this proposal, and explain how the evidence in Paul for a historical Jesus should be interpreted in a corporate or collective sense. I also provide a typological derivation of the name ‘Jesus’ in Paul.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Abstract

Scholars writing within the historical Jesus research paradigm often write different books on the same topic: heavy tomes for other scholars and shorter books on the same subject for lay readers. While the scholarly works have been reviewed by other scholars, the books for lay readers have not. This article analyzes works on the historical Jesus for lay readers authored by N.T. Wright and John Dominic Crossan, comparing the popular works to the scholarly ones. The analyses show that in Wright’s case the ontological norms of historical Jesus research are consistently compromised in his work for a lay audience (Simply Jesus). In Crossan’s case, the voice of the dispassionate scholar yields to the passionate denunciator in his popular Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author: James Crossley

Abstract

This article takes a different look at the work of Burton Mack on apocalypticism and the post-historical Jesus crystallisation of the Christian ‘myth of innocence’ in terms of the social history of scholarship. After a critical assessment of previous receptions of Mack’s work from the era of the ‘Jesus wars’, there is a discussion of Mack’s place in broader cross-disciplinary tendencies in the study of apocalypticism with reference to the influence of liberal and Marxist approaches generally and those of Norman Cohn and Eric Hobsbawm specifically. Mack’s approach to apocalypticism should be seen as a thoroughgoing updating of Cold War liberal constructions of apocalypticism for an era of American ‘culture wars’, from Reagan to Trump. Part of this updating has also meant that, while much of his work against the apocalyptic Christian myth of innocence has been explicitly aimed at the de-legitimising the Right, it also continues the old Cold War intellectual battles by implicitly de-legitimising anything deemed excessively Marxist.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
This book investigates the various paraphrastic techniques employed by Nonnus of Panopolis (5th century AD) for his poetic version of the Gospel of John. The authors look at Nonnus’ Paraphrase, the only extant poetic Greek paraphrase of the New Testament, in the light of ancient rhetorical theory while also exploring its multi-faceted relationship with poetic tradition and the theological debates of its era. The study shows how interpretation, cardinal both in ancient literary criticism and in theology, is exploited in a poem that is exegetical both from a philological and a Christian point of view and adheres, at the same time, to the literary principles of Hellenistic times and late antiquity.
New Perspectives on Tradition and Transformation
Volume Editors: Albert Geljon and Nienke Vos
Based on the paradigmatic shift in both liturgical and ritual studies, this multidisciplinary volume presents a collection of case studies on rituals in the early Christian world. After a methodological discussion of the new paradigm, it shows how emblematic Christian rituals were influenced by their Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts, undergoing multiple transformations, while themselves affecting developments both within and outside Christianity. Notably, parallel traditions in Judaism and Islam are included in the discussion, highlighting the importance of ongoing reception history. Focusing on the dynamic character of rituals, the new perspectives on ritual traditions pursued here relate to the expanding source material, both textual and material, as well as the development of recent interdisciplinary approaches, including the cognitive science of religion.
In: Nonnus’ Paraphrase between Poetry, Rhetoric and Theology
In: Nonnus’ Paraphrase between Poetry, Rhetoric and Theology
In: Nonnus’ Paraphrase between Poetry, Rhetoric and Theology