Several recent studies on Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew have argued that the Dialogue should not be read as a witness to the state of theological debate between Jews and Christ-followers in the second century. Such arguments conclude that Justin does not engage with actual Jewish perspectives, but rather reconstructs a hypothetical Judaism from second-hand, polemical sources, or merely uses Trypho’s “Judaism” as a stand-in for what are actually (in Justin’s view) heterodox Christian interpretations. This article challenges this claim by returning to an older debate in Justin scholarship: the question of his relationship with Philo of Alexandria. By attending particularly to the role of the Logos in each author’s exegesis of Pentateuchal theophanic texts, the article argues that Justin’s interpretations in the Dialogue carefully avoid a kind of Logos theology that is well represented in the writings of Philo. This rhetorical distancing supports the conclusion that, in the Dialogue, Justin is in fact responding to exegetical traditions which he knows from the writings of Hellenized Judaism.
Mark Randall James, Learning the Language of Scripture. Origen, Wisdom, and the Logic of Interpretation (Studies in Systematic Theology 24), Leiden-Boston: Brill 2021, XIV + 339 pp., ISBN 978-90-04-44653-7, € 59 /US$ 68 (pb).
Mark Randall James, in this stimulating work, dwells on a problem for contemporary students of theology and biblical studies: “the lingering arbitrariness that afflicts modern reading and interpretation of scripture” (p. 2). This arbitrariness is found on several fronts, the most obvious being the divide between theology and biblical studies with their various critical methods. James seeks to develop a
The Apostle of Jesus Christ, Mani, declares himself to be a “solitary one” (monērēs) no less than three times in the Cologne Mani Codex (CMC). Through a literary analysis that contextualizes the CMC both with contemporary Syrian depictions of anchoritic ascetics, on the one hand, and the hairy mountaineering anchorite (CMC 126.4-129.17) with Mani, on the other hand, this article argues that the redactor of the CMC sought to portray Mani as an anchoritic ascetic. Mani’s declaration to be a monērēs is therefore not incidental, but an essential marker of his identity, even as he sets out into the world as the Apostle of Jesus Christ.
Basil of Caesarea’s On the Holy Spirit has often been painted as a work that symbolises his emergence from the shadow of his embittered mentor, Eustathius of Sebaste. This paper reassesses the extent of Eustathius’ influence on the treatise. By analysing both the tone and argumentation of On the Holy Spirit, I counter this scholarly narrative, showing that Eustathius in fact serves as the silent interlocutor of the treatise, to whom Basil pleads the case of his orthodoxy, and with whom he begs for the church to be healed. Consequently, On the Holy Spirit should be read as more in vogue with apologetic literature than polemic , as a redoubled effort to respond to Eustathius that mounts an impassioned but cordial defence of Basil’s vision of Christian orthodoxy and a long-overdue plea for peace in a war-torn church.
Ancient philosophers sought to tune the soul and society to the musica universalis, the celestial harmony generated by the rational wheelworks of the cosmos. For Romans, this overarching rationality was associated with the rational speech of elite masculinity. Augustine subverts this discourse, however. Maintaining that the musica universalis is tuned to the love of God rather than rationality, Augustine depicts Roman history as chaotic dissonance that is out of tune with cosmic harmony. He effects a cosmic key change which idealizes behavior that Roman elites would have viewed absurd. Instead of selling a traditional type of speech (rhetoric) that according to Augustine leads to chaos, he teaches Christians to embrace activities in which the uneducated can participate – singing Psalms, and bursting into sudden, incomprehensible eruptions of divine joy, which he terms jubilus. In short, Augustine preaches a radically new sonority to undergird a new society.
Right at the beginning of his “On Baptism”, Tertullian points out that he has composed this writing against a teacher “of the Cainite heresy”. Although “Caina” does not appear in the manuscripts, it is made plausible by the state of the textual transmission, especially by Jerome’s reception of Tertullian (Ep. 69.1.2). It may have been Irenaeus’ polemics (haer. 1.31) that first made Cain the protagonist of radical criticism against the God of the Book of Genesis, whence later heresiologists deduced the existence of “Cainites”. The “Paraphrase of Seem” (NHC VII 1) could belong to a tradition which the heresiologists would have labelled “cainite”. This text contains an exegesis of Gen 1 which leads to fundamental criticism of baptism with water. Now Tertullian draws his arguments in support of water baptism right from Gen 1, and his arguments, quite remarkably, make good sense as a reply to NHC VII 1.
Cyprian’s homily De Disciplina et Habitu Virginum presents instructions and warnings about appropriate appearance and behavior for sacred virgins, women who had chosen to remain celibate and dedicate their lives to Christ. While this document has generally been read for its theological and literary merits, I argue for its historical value in reflecting real people and their behavior in the Carthaginian church. If we were to turn our focus from the bishop and his theology to the work’s addressees and their daily lives, what does this homily tell us about the women in the Carthaginian church in the mid-third century? A close analysis of this document complicates the presumed packaging of women’s virginity and asceticism together: while the bishops saw the two as necessary companions, some of the virgins in the early churches did not.
This article lays out Origen’s anthropological application of John 1:26. In particular, it examines the way in which Origen pairs the phrase “one whom you do not know has stood in your midst (μέσος ὑμῶν)” with the Stoic terminus technicus “governing faculty” (ἡγεμονικόν) through an identification of μέσος with soul. This identification assumes that μέσος refers to the soul and that references to the soul apply to the governing faculty. The former stands upon Origen’s four-fold interpretation of μέσος; the latter is an assumption based in Stoic psychology. This article begins with an examination of how Origen connects μέσος to soul and, subsequently, soul to the governing faculty. Next, it examines Origen’s engagement with John 1:26 in his Commentary on John. Finally, the article discusses the various ways in which Origen interprets this verse in his other works.