Book Review (part 9: From Christian Apologists to Heresiologists) – ‘Neither Jew nor Greek’ by James D.G. Dunn

heresiologistThis is the ninth installment of my continuing recap/summary over James Dunn’s newest volume Neither Jew nor Greek. In this section I will cover his section entitled ‘Eusebius and the Heresiologists’ (40.3). Dunn offers this section in part due to the fact that the Christian movement begins to see a change from a plethora of apologists to a group of heresiologists (‘heresy scribes/hunters’). This particular time period is “a decisive tipping point in Christianity’s history and the point at which this study concludes.” Dunn also carefully notes that the relaibility of historical information on these six figures is shaky and often uncertain at points, but they do shed some light on what was taking place during the second century CE. In this post I will follow Dunn’s order of the six figured covered, which also follow a chronological ordering.

 

Hegesippus

-Eusebius notes that Hegesippus belongs in the generation after the apostles (HE 2.23.3)

-A Jewish convert

-Wrote five treatises

-Discusses a variety of heresies, some of which he attributes to arguments over the successors in the Jerusalem church after the death of James (HE 4.22.3-6)

 

Irenaeus

-Dunn indicates that Irenaeus could be categorized as the last of the apologists, but his most significant literary contribution was the five books Against Heresies

-Lived fully within the second century CE (c. 130-200)

-Bridged the gap between the east and the west, having grown up in Smyrna but eventually serving as bishop of Lyons in 178 CE

-Argued against a variety of forms of Gnosticism, particularly belonging to Valentinius

-Argued that there should only be four Gospels

 

Tertullian

-Born around 160 and raised in Carthage

-Converted to Christianity some time before 197 CE

-Polemizes all heresy

-Regards the true church as evidently the result of successions of episcopal leaders who alone possess the authority to interpret Scripture

-Penned five books against Marcion

-Leaned toward Montanism, resulting in a hit to his reputation

 

Hippolytus

-Lived from around 170-236 CE

-Was an active teacher in Rome in the early third century CE

-His primary writing was Refutatio Omnium Haeresium (‘Refutation of All Heresies’)

 

Eusebius

-Served as bishop of Caesarea from c. 260-340 CE

-Was a supporter of Arius (the primary opponent of Nicene christology)

-Likely gave an “unwilling assent” to the Nicene Creed

-His ten volume Ecclesiastical History is significantly faulted by its perspective of the ‘winners’ in the Constantinian settlement

 

Epiphanius

-Served as bishop of Salamis (c. 315-403)

-Noted as an uncritical upholder of the Nicene Creed

-His principle writing Adversus Haereses describes and attempts to refute some eighty religious sects, beginning from Adam on down into his own time

-Argues that Judaism itself is a heresy

-Makes note of the Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel according to the Hebrews

 

 

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Book Review (part 8: The Apologists as Sources) – ‘Neither Jew nor Greek’ by James D.G. Dunn

earlychurchThis post is a continuation of my recap/summary of James Dunn’s newest volume Neither Jew nor Greek. In chapter 40 Dunn is outlining the sources regarding the second century data, an important period for the development of early Christianity. In this section (40.2) the Apologists are identified, many of whom I was not introduced to in my undergraduate and graduate history courses. An ‘apologist’ was someone attempting to give a reasoned defense of their faith (although Dunn is correct to note that Christians were not the first apologists, pointing correctly to the works of Philo). I will attempt to summarize Dunn’s outline of these various sources.

 

Quadratus

-Quadratus is regarded as the first Christian to write an apology

-Eusebius writes that Quadratus addressed a treatise to the emperor Hadrian around 125 CE

-Only part of this document was cited by Eusebius (HE 4.3.2)

-The quote notes how some of the beneficiaries of Jesus’ miracles, particularly his healings and resurrections, have survived to Quadratus’ time

 

Aristides

-Aristides likewise penned an apology to the emperor Hadrian (according to Eusebius HE 4.3.3)

-However, a Syriac translation of Aristides was uncovered in 1889, noting that the apology was written to Caesar Titus Hadrianus Antonius (the adopted son of the former Hadrian)

-Some scholars think that the Syrian translation possibly revised the apology to Antonius from the former recipient, Hadrian

-The document notes how Christians are regarding themselves as a distinct species or genus within the Mediterranean world

 

The Kerygma Petrou

-Preserved in a few fragments by Clement of Alexandria

-Promotes the oneness of God

-Dated to the first three decades of the second century CE

-Clement thought it was an authentic writing of Peter, but it was questioned (rightly) by Origen

 

The Epistle to Diognetus

-No one is really sure who the author is, but this did not stop the early Christians from guessing

-A very polished piece of literature, written with a high standard of rhetoric

-The dating is unsure, but somewhere in the second century is as far as as Dunn is willing to venture a guess

 

Justin Martyr (someone should start a blog with a pun of this guy here)

-The most significant of the second-century apologists

-Justin is from Samaria

-Enjoyed the writings of Plato

-Justin functioned as a philosopher first and as a Christian second

-There are conflicting reports of Justin’s death

-Wrote two apologies, the first around the year 155 and the second around 161

-Wrote a mock dialogue with a fictional Jew names Trypho, although the material for the document certainly represents some of the attitudes between Jews and Christians during that time

-Parts of Justin’s writings include what scholars now identify as spurious letters reportedly written by Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius

 

Tatian

-A disciple of Justin (converted in Rome)

-Irenaeus, however, calls Tatian a false teacher (adv. Haer. 1.28.1)

-Wrote his Address to the Greeks  between 155-165

-Tatian further develops the ‘Logos theology’ which he inherited from Justin

-His Diatessaron was a harmony of the four Gospels into one document

-This document was the standard Gospel text in Syriac-speaking churches till the fifth century

 

Apollinarius

-Bishop of Hierapolis

-Wrote his apology around 176, addressed to the emperor Marcus Aurelius

-Eusebius remarks that Apollinarius battled against the Montanists

-None of Apollinarius’ writings have survived, unfortunately

 

Athenagoras

-Wrote his Plea for the Christians to Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus around 176-177maxresdefault

-His writings demonstrate the nature of persecution suffered by Christians in his time

-Also wrote an extensive treatise On the Resurrection, arguing against the perspectives of Greek thoughts on immortality

-Eusebius, interestingly, does not mention Athenagoras

 

Theophilus of Antioch

-Bishop of Antioch

-Served from 170 to the early 180s

-Eusebius notes that Theophilus wrote against Marcion, but it is his apology to Autolycus which survives to this day

-The first Christian to use the word ‘trinity’ in his writings, but he defines is as God, his Word, and his Wisdom (something modern Trinitarians would dispute)

 

Melito of Sardis

-Bishop of Sardis

-Wrote his Peri Pascha around the third quarter of the second century

-Wrote that Christ ‘is by nature both God and man’

-Regards Christ as the one who cared for Israel in the wilderness

-Possessed no discernible ‘Logos’ theology

-Some scholars regard Melito as a naive docetic.

 

 

What do you guys think? Anything interesting about the various apologists of the second century CE? I know I learned a thing or two about the various expressions of Christianity during this period, and have even become acquainted with some new faces.

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Book Review – ‘Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity’ by James D.G. Dunn (part 1)

Greetings,

I just got my copy of James Dunn’s Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity in the mail yesterday. This is the third and final installment of Dunn’s Christianity in the Making series in which he outlines the development and formation of the Christian movement beginning with Jesus, the early Church, and on into the middle of the second century. The first installment, Jesus Remembered, was published back in 2003 (meaning I read it as a teenager). The second, Beginning from Jerusalem, came out in 2009, thus making each subsequent volume appear over six year intervals.

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Over the next series of blog entries I will be summarizing and reviewing this culmination of a world-class scholar’s lifetime of research. This initial post will focus on §38.1-3a.

Dunn starts by summarizing the conclusions reached in the two former volumes, highlighting the fact that prior to the year 70 CE the followers of Jesus (not yet self-defined as ‘Christianity’) were still well-within the matrix of Second Temple Judaism. Only after this period did both ‘Christianity’ and Judaism begin to define their respected groups with an understanding that they were headed on separate and trajectories. Studying the various trajectories of the early Christian movement has, in the past, been undertaken by methodologically looking at presupposed cut-off point the end of the NT era and the beginning of the writings of the early church fathers. Dunn notes that this approach is problematic because some early church writings (1 Clement) are arguably earlier than some of the later NT texts, thus creating some overlap. He also notes how it has been common to follow the argument of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (circa. 311-325) in which the fourth century’s church structures and apostolic succession are the pure form of the faith which can clearly be traced back to the NT documents, thus creating a golden thread of unaltered Christian doctrine and praxis. Dunn notes that Walter Baur’s thesis, who argued that what was formerly considered ‘heresy’ was eventually crowned as ‘orthodoxy’ by the ‘winners’ of history, has since challenged the assumptions championed by readers of Eusebius. Even the famous Reformers would disagree with Eusebius! Since then, scholars have come to better appreciate the Jewish matrix out of which the Christian movement arose.

Beginning with methodological foundation of the ‘Jewishness’ of the early Christian movement Dunn begins to observe the various ways (or paths) that followers of Jesus created and sustained. He notes that in a variety of ways, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity found opportunities to interact with each other after 70 CE. For example, it was the believers in Jesus who preserved many of the Jewish writings, such as the Ascension of Isaiah, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and even the works of JosephusAdditionally, many early church fathers had to argue against their churches attending synagogue meetings, celebrating Passover, and even at times observing the Sabbath (indicating that these were lingering concerns). Thirdly, it is historically unlikely that the majority of Jews living in the Diaspora would hardly have been incorporated into a strict ‘rabbinical’ flavor of Judaism in the second century CE. This data suggests, according to Dunn, that ‘ordinary Christians’ in the first three to four centuries did not see Christianity and Judaism as two  opposing religions. As with much of history, the act of summarizing messy events is often difficult to place into orderly categories.

How then did Christianity and Judaism eventually part ways? Dunn responds, in dialogue with Daniel Boyarin,

“Over a lengthy period, at different times and places, and as judged by different people differently, depending on what was regarded as a non-negotiable boundary marker and by whom.”

This conclusion, I feel, is a balanced and fair answer to Eusebius and a more critical answer than Walter Baur offered.

Although I am only twenty-two pages into this tome, I find Dunn easy to read and striking a great balance between a technical-scholarly approach without being dull or boring. His thoughts are organized and his research is well-footnoted. If you are looking for a big book to plow through over the holidays, Dunn’s Neither Jew nor Greek is a highly recommended choice. The very fact that this book culminates James Dunn’s life-long pursuit of scholarship pertaining to early Christianity should motivate readers to interact with this volume.

Stay tuned (or subscribe) for further installments.