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Author: Antti Laato

Abstract

In this article I have attempted to put Justin’s theology in its own historical context. I would like to see Justin’s theology as a development from intra-Jewish theological discussions which took place in the Jewish-Christian confrontations where the borderlines between Judaism and Christianity were not at all clear in the first century and at the beginning of the second CE. Justin’s way of dealing with the promise given to Abraham mainly follows the Jewish apostle’s Paul’s interpretation of the Abrahamic faith in Romans 4 and Galatians 3–4. He has used Paul’s way of treating Abrahamic faith and Jesus’ saying in Mt 8:11–12, and developed more clearly a theological idea that the promise given to Abraham concerned the Christian Church from the very beginning. However, it is difficult to say that Justin represented pure supersessionistic theology because his interpretation does not nullify the intra-Jewish discussion still present in the New Testament. According to this intra-Jewish discussion, the promise of Abraham is related to Abraham’s physical descendants, the Jews who continue to practice the Mosaic Law (as expressed by Paul, the Jew, in Rom 9:1–5). The central debate in this intra-Jewish discussion concerned the question whether Jesus from Nazareth should be regarded as Messiah/Christ.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity
Author: Joseph Grabau

Abstract

In this chapter, the author examines the intersection of polemical exegesis and rhetorical praxis in doctr. chr. Set in the light of a broader study on the anti-Donatist exegesis of Augustine in his earliest Tractates on John (Io. eu. tr. 1–16), this contribution questions whether and to what extent Augustine ever offers a normative, ideal theory of combating heresy or schism, and thus of performing polemical exegesis. Through a careful analysis of select passages in Book 3 on Tyconius, Augustine’s principal predecessor in the history of Latin biblical hermeneutics, the author traces how one might attempt to extract such a normative theory. As a result, the author argues that in this respect, Augustine presents his implied teaching on combating heresy through exegesis in a way that appeals to exemplarity. As a model church leader and public authority, Augustine demonstrated throughout his corpus—in his polemical treatises, open letters to representatives of the opposing party, and his sermons and other exegetical works—how to defend the truth in love. As it happens, this method of instruction in the art of effective preaching, biblical interpretation and pedagogy of teaching eloquence also appears as an essential component of doctr. chr., drawing as it does upon the classical exemplars which taught in such a manner.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity
Author: Eetu Manninen

Abstract

This article examines Augustine’s early dialogues from the perspective of the feeling of shame. First, Augustine’s early negative conception of shame as a hindrance to an unconditional search for truth is determined and considered in connection with the broader Augustinian theory of shame, which was more elaborately formulated and more theologically motivated in Augustine’s later works, such as De ciuitate Dei. Second, Augustine’s dialogues are considered from this point of view as works that are intended to encourage their readers to overcome the negative effects of shame and to search for truth wholeheartedly, even if it would require admitting one’s own errors and receiving correction from one’s dialogue partners. As a result, the present study aims to shed new light on Augustine’s early conception of shame and on the style and purpose of his early philosophical dialogues.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity

Abstract

Abraham was the forefather of the Hebrew people, but how does Josephus present him in his works? Curiously, two famous scholars, Samuel Sandmel and Louis H. Feldman have very different opinions on the topic. According to Sandmel, Abraham was—for Josephus—only one of many biblical characters without any special role. Feldman, for his part, tries to show how Josephus carefully planned his portrayal of Abraham and followed classical models. Both scholars had their own general views on Josephus and this explains their strangely different opinions on Abraham in Josephus. Unlike most early Jewish writers Josephus retells every story of Abraham and adds no completely new stories, although he does make several minor changes. He may also have made some odd mistakes or followed a strange tradition unknown to us. Although the “Hellenization” of the hero should not be exaggerated, Josephus does make Abraham a wise man and a great general and leader, but, on the other hand, portrays him as someone who is not a superhuman figure or a miracle worker, as some writers did. Josephus interestedly omits the words of the covenant between God and Abraham, and also edits the blessing given to Abraham. Josephus does not seem to be keen to emphasize the universalistic line but is satisfied with the particularistic aspect: Abraham played a role in world history though his wisdom, but Josephus does not speak of the blessing coming to every nation of the world.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity
Author: Pablo Irizar

Abstract

This contribution traces the dialogical strategies deployed by Augustine of Hippo (354–430) in the Sermons as a case-study on intra-religious encounters in 4th century North-Africa. Specifically, this contribution carries out a chronological-thematic analysis of Augustine’s rhetoric of the image with special attention to the effects that the preacher/hearer dialectic produces in the social ‘moral imagination’. It is argued that ambiguity best characterizes the dialogical strategy inherent to Augustine’s preaching on the interplay between grace and free will. The effect of ambiguity is not persuasion but rather the shaping of a ‘moral imagination’ of a community and thus conditions the sphere of moral action. To conclude, dialogical ambiguity in Augustine’s Sermons simultaneously empowers and constrains the boundaries for the possibility of moral action where free will and grace constantly overlap.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity

Abstract

This essay discusses Clement of Alexandria’s and Irenaeus of Lyon’s polemics with their theological opponents and their views concerning the epithet “gnostic,” as well as the reception of these in scholarship. It is argued that the portrayal of these two authors as opponents of gnostics is without foundation. For Clement, the term “gnostic” is exclusively positive, and he is by far our best example in ancient literature of the self-designation “gnostic.” He never criticizes anyone he considers a gnostic but—in addition to some whom he does not classify in this respect—only those who, according to him, “falsely” call themselves gnostics. This is true for Irenaeus as well, but a characteristic feature in his Adversus haereses is terminological variability: while he explicitly denies the right of all of his opponents to call themselves gnostics by calling them “false gnostics,” he also calls the same people “so-called gnostics” or simply “gnostics.” This variation seems not to have been noticed in research where the standard practice is to speak of Irenaeus’s refutation of the gnostics. The author presents a plea for terminological accuracy and transparency that takes into account the fact that in parts of the earliest evidence the term “gnostic” is an honorific much closer to “orthodox” than “heretic.”

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity
Author: Sven-Olav Back

Abstract

In his polemical interaction with Greco-Roman religion, philosophers, and heretics, Justin refers to “sound judgment”, “right reason” etc. as a criterion for distinguishing between truth and falsehood. The terms have a Stoic background, but Justin uses them to indicate reason as enlightened by Christian doctrine, i.e., the Old Testament revelation rightly understood.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity

Abstract

In his polemic against Graeco-Roman religions, Lactantius argues that they cannot be real religiones because there can be no religio wherever cult images are involved. Religio consists of divine things and there is nothing divine except in heavenly things. Thus, Lactantius asserts, cult images are without religio because there can be nothing heavenly in images made from earth. Pagan cults with images were a mere mimicry of religio: non religio in simulacris, sed mimus religionis est (Lactantius, Institutiones divinae 2.18.3). In this paper, I discuss the late antique Christian polemic against Graeco-Roman religions (‘paganism’) and especially Christian writers’ argumentation in which Graeco-Roman religions were labelled as a distortion of the real religion. In their criticism, Christian apologists employed the Roman concept of superstitio. I show how they not only introduced new dimensions into the distinction between religio and superstitio, but also echoed some of the traditional Roman conventions that characterized superstitio as the perversion, forgery, or caricature of the proper religio. The main focus is on Lactantius’ discussion of the cults with and without sacred images but I also analyse Augustine’s views on ‘pagan’ distortions, and widen the discussion on a few fourth- and fifth-century writers (Epiphanius of Salamis and Quodvultdeus) who in their polemic against ‘heresies’ use the metaphor of concubines to describe what they regard as false religion. The true religion is depicted as the lawful wife.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity

Abstract

This paper examines the rhetorical and argumentative strategies of Evodius’ anti-Manichaean treatise Aduersus Manichaeos. The analysis of this contribution presents a case study of the religious polemics between the Manichaeans and the mainstream (or “Catholic”) Christians of fifth-century Latin North Africa. Both movements attempted to demonstrate that they were rightful Christians, refuting their adversaries’ claim to the same religious identity. The treatise Aduersus Manichaeos represents the views of one of the North African Catholic bishops, Evodius, who was ordained bishop of Uzalis at the end of the fourth century. In his treatise he addresses a Manichaean audience with a view to converting his addressees to Catholic Christianity. To achieve this goal he employed a rhetoric of appropriation and dissociation. He makes use of the terminology of light and darkness, two central elements in the Manichaean system, to characterise his own views as good (light), and those of his addressees as evil (dark). In addition, he attempts to convince his addressees by creating a distance between them and Mani, the founder of Manichaeism. A preliminary section offers an introduction to the relations between mainstream Christianity and Manichaeism in Latin North Africa, and to Manichaean-Christian polemics in general. On several occasions, the contribution offers a comparison of Evodius’ anti-Manichaean treatise and the anti-Manichaean material of his contemporaries, such as Augustine of Hippo and Quodvultdeus of Carthage.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity
Author: Timo Nisula

Abstract

The rhetorical device of fictitious dialogue (sermocinatio) appears in various uses in Augustine’s sermons. The device consisted in introducing an imaginary interlocutor during the actual delivery of a sermon. Many kinds of such fictitious partners of dialogue could be used, depending on the purpose of the sermocinatio. Augustine also found the device suitable to promote his anti-Donatist agenda in his sermons, and the article analyses a selection of instances in which Augustine stages more or less extensive dialogues with generic and anonymous Donatist opponents. As to be expected, these dialogues are not construed to present a “fair” treatment of the preacher’s opponents, but rather to entertain his congregation by depicting the Donatist opponents as stubborn, stupid and prone to fall rather easily in the dialectic traps set by Augustine. However, the anti-Donatist sermocinationes show that Augustine was keen to address even difficult controversial issues of exegetical or doctrinal nature, in order to train his listeners in responding to and, perhaps, convincing the representatives of the opposing views. Sermocinationes provided Augustine with a convenient instrument such micro-debates, as the case of s. 357 demonstrates.

In: Religious Polemics and Encounters in Late Antiquity