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    Webster, John 2012. T. F. Torrance on Scripture. Scottish Journal of Theology, Vol. 65, Issue. 01, p. 34.


    2012. A Companion to Augustine.


    Merrick, James R. A. 2010. Sola scriptura and the regula fidei: the Reformation scripture principle and early oral tradition in Martin Chemnitz' Examination of the Council of Trent. Scottish Journal of Theology, Vol. 63, Issue. 03, p. 253.


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    The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature
    • Online ISBN: 9781139053846
    • Book DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835
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Book description

The writings of the Church Fathers form a distinct body of literature that shaped the early church and built upon the doctrinal foundations of Christianity established within the New Testament. Christian literature in the period c.100–c.400 constitutes one of the most influential textual oeuvres of any religion. Written mainly in Greek, Latin and Syriac, Patristic literature emanated from all parts of the early Christian world and helped to extend its boundaries. The History offers a systematic account of that literature and its setting. The works of individual writers in shaping the various genres of Christian literature is considered, alongside three general essays, covering distinct periods in the development of Christian literature, which survey the social, cultural and doctrinal context within which Christian literature arose and was used by Christians. This is a landmark reference book for scholars and students alike.

Reviews

'In sum: this is a fine and important book, with excellent essays.'

Source: Church Times

‘As no-one can keep abreast of every aspect of the discipline, this volume will be useful even to specialists who may not be fully aware of developments outside their immediate field of interest. … this is a most useful book which will be of great help to anyone who needs a guide to part or all of the period which it covers.'

Source: Evangelical Quarterly

'… the most exhaustive treatment of early Christian literature in quite some time, and is an indispensable reference work.'

Source: Religious Studies Review

'The Cambridge History of early Literature is a first-rate work of Scholarship. it will be a welcome addition to those handy reference shelves and may well bump some works that are already there to a lower place.'

Source: Scottish Journal of Theology

'The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature is a first-rate work of scholarship. it will be a welcome addition to those handy reference shelves and may well bump some works that are already there to a lower place.'

Source: Journal of SJT

'There are three standard approaches to the study of ancient Christianity. One is historical, another is theological, and finally a third approach is literary. … The present Cambridge history masterfully integrates these three approaches into one volume, which its editors rightly hope will become 'a standard work of reference.' It is indeed a superb volume, which as its title indicates surveys early Christian literature from its beginnings up to the middle of the fifth century.'

Source: Gregorianum

'This volume will certainly stand both as a statement of the progress made so far in this field and as a prospectus for future …'

Source: Journal of Theological Studies

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Page 1 of 2


  • 1 - Introduction: the literary culture of the earliest christianity
    pp 1-10
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.002
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The last 200 years have seen considerable swings in the literary assessment of the earliest Christian literature, including as it does the texts, which became the canonized Scriptures of the Church. The tracing of a historical sequence reflecting historical development required the abandonment of canonicity as a criterion in assessing the literature. Against that background, there emerged the notion of distinguishing between the primitive literature of the Christian movement and that produced after the adoption of the forms of Greco-Roman literary culture. The transmission of the texts from antiquity had been in the hands of the Church. Anti-heretical literature was preserved, but not the texts of those condemned. The very earliest Christian texts are the letters of Paul, a Jew and Pharisee, formerly known as Saul. In biblical studies, canon criticism has reopened the question whether the formation of a canon and the effective turning of many books into one does not change the way the texts are read.
  • 2 - The apostolic and sub-apostolic writings: the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers
    pp 11-19
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.003
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The expression 'Apostolic Fathers' corresponds to an idea of seventeenth century origin. The primitive Christian literature takes a variety of forms, but by far the most frequent form is that of the letter. In the Roman-Hellenistic world letters were a common, if not frequent, means of communication among ordinary folk, for personal or business purposes. Of the letters in the New Testament, fourteen were traditionally attributed to Paul. Of these, the unquestionably genuine ones are 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, Galatians and Romans. The term 'gospel' eventually came, in early Christianity, to identify works of widely differing sorts. The Valentinian Gospel of Truth appears to be a sermon or treatise. The Gospel of Thomas is an anthology of sayings of Jesus. Among the Apostolic Fathers, some of the characteristics of the apocalyptic literature are shared by The Shepherd of Hermas, which stems from the Roman Church of the early second century.
  • 3 - Gnostic literature
    pp 20-27
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.004
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The term 'Gnosticism' and 'gnostic' were used to describe certain second- and third-century Christian groups or teachers that claimed to possess a special saving knowledge, which had been revealed to their predecessors and passed on to them. In 1785, the British Museum came into possession of a Coptic manuscript of the fourth century that was part of the estate of a London physician and antiquary named Askew. This Askew Codex contains a series of dialogues between the risen Jesus on the one hand, and Mary Magdalene and other disciples on the other. Valentinian practice is reflected in the work titled A Valentinian Exposition, which expounds the story of creation and redemption, the gnosis which believers understand, and provides instruction on the meaning of baptism and what look like elements of a eucharistic prayer. These writings, more than the protreptic works, provide useful hints of the way gnostics, Christian but also non-Christian, talked in their own circles.
  • 4 - Apocryphal writings and Acts of the martyrs
    pp 28-35
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.005
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Apocrypha' and 'apocryphal' originally signified something hidden or secret, and they were applied in this sense to esoteric writings, that is, writings which circulated only within a narrow group of persons 'in the know'. Several apocryphal gospels are attributed to apostles, thus tacitly claiming apostolic authority for their content. Of more interest to historians are the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter. The first of these is known only from the Nag Hammadi corpus, and therefore in a Coptic translation of the original Greek. Like the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Thomas, an early third-century composition, identifies its subject as 'Judas Thomas, also called Didymus. The early Christians wrote and consulted works of the sort that are styled 'apocalypse'. One type of apocalypse is represented by the Ascension of Isaiah, which combines an old Jewish legend of the martyrdom of Isaiah, originally in Hebrew, with a Christian interpolation and supplement originally in Greek.
  • 5 - The Apologists
    pp 36-44
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.006
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The term 'Apologists', as applied to Christian writers of the early period, denotes a series of authors who in the course of the second century composed and circulated addresses and pleas to emperors and others in public authority on behalf of their fellow Christians. A Greek text of The Apology of Aristides was identified as figuring in a novel, Barlaam and Josaphat, that had been written in Palestine in the tenth century. The Syriac text disagrees with Eusebius' statement that the work was addressed to Hadrian and sets it instead in the reign of Antoninus Pius, but three Armenian manuscripts that contain the opening lines of the Apology concur with Eusebius. Sardis was a significant centre of diaspora Judaism, and Melito's stance towards Judaism, that of one who was at once an ungrateful tributary and an indebted foe, illustrates the general position of Christianity in relation to Judaism in his time.
  • 6 - Irenaeus of Lyon
    pp 45-52
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.007
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Irenaeus, head of the Christian community at Lyon in Gaul, was a central figure in the second-century debate stimulated in the Christian churches by gnosticism and by the teachings of Marcion. One may assume that Irenaeus' hostility to Christian gnosticism as well as to the teachings of Marcion was brought with him from Asia. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius of Caesarea mentions a number of writings of Irenaeus. Irenaeus 'New Testament' is basically a collection of works conceived to be written by, or to report the teaching of, apostles; and while he differs radically from Valentinians about how such books should be read, he does not, save in the case of the Acts, seem to differ with them about the books that constitute the core list. It is Marcion, not the gnostics, whom he openly accuses of truncating the list of essential Christian Scriptures.
  • 7 - Social and historical setting
    pp 53-70
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.008
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The first two centuries of the history of Christianity was a period of struggle for survival and the crucible in which the basic elements of Christian identity and church organization were forged. The Roman Government was usually tolerant of foreign cults and religions, provided that they did not encourage sedition or weaken traditional values. The various local deities of the provinces encompassed by the Roman Empire were easily absorbed into the pantheon and the diverse spectrum of religious life. The God of the Jews, however, demanded exclusive adherence, that sacrifices be performed only at Jerusalem, and prohibited all images. In second century, although Christians were formally in official disrepute and were socially stigmatized, informally they were usually left to do as they pleased, and were even able to protest against their treatment. The second century was a remarkable period of peace, stability and well-being in the history of the Roman Empire.
  • 8 - Articulating identity
    pp 71-90
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.009
  • View abstract
    Summary
    By the last decades of the first century, the Christian communities around the Mediterranean basin had entered upon a process that would, over a period of two or more centuries, produce a relatively stable, widely shared, and socially embodied sense of who they were and what they stood for. The original Christians, however, had no place in this world as Christians. They were Jews with an odd set of convictions. Judaism in the days of Jesus and Paul, in Judaea and in the diaspora as well, was a more differentiated phenomenon. Judaism in the Roman-Hellenistic age produced a variegated literature in Aramaic or Hebrew and also in Greek. Christianity was an identifiable phenomenon even before the drawn-out, and relatively self-conscious, process of acknowledging and constructing a shared identity. In defining the principles as representing the true sense of the Scriptures and the emerging 'New Testament', Irenaeus had focused attention on his alternative to the Valentinian 'secret tradition'.
  • 9 - Christian teaching
    pp 91-104
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.010
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The literary deposit of early Christianity is most often used as source material for tracing the development of doctrine. For the reading of Scripture at Christian assemblies there was, of course, Jewish precedent, and it was the Jewish Scriptures that were read throughout the second century. The Jews had their own distinct body of literature: even Hellenized Jews like Philo who were given to reading their Scriptures with Platonist spectacles. This literature gave them their national history, as Greek literature did for the Greeks. Early Christian texts, canonical and non-canonical, betray the influence of apocalyptic literature and of oracular exegesis of the prophets. Christian teaching begins with the fact that God, the Maker of all, has an eye on everything, and there will be judgment. The lifestyle Christians chose was taught by Christ and followed Gospel precepts. Irenaeus is usually treated as the first great Christian theologian.
  • 10 - Conclusion: towards a hermeneutic of second-century texts
    pp 105-112
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.011
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Many of the earliest Christian texts are letters. They were addressed to specific recipients in the first or second century. Feminist readings have challenged the influence of patriarchal texts and rehabilitated texts dismissed as apocryphal, such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla, or rejected as heretical, such as the newly discovered gnostic literature. The hermeneutic of newly discovered texts begins in a different place. Specialists are indispensable, for only they have access to the language: Coptic in the case of the Gospel of Truth. The freethinking and feminist hermeneutic depends, not upon reading the text, but on setting the text in a reconstructed social and historical world which is taken to be patriarchal, hierarchical and authoritarian: indeed, the supposed world of the Pastoral Letters. The Pastorals recognize the importance of corporateness and community, of the need for leadership and respect, for the acceptance of duties and responsibilities if a group is to function effectively.
  • 11 - The Alexandrians
    pp 113-130
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.012
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Scholars are generally agreed that Christianity had been established in Alexandria by the middle of the first century, and that there was a strong strain of heterodoxy, there until the early third century. The two famous gnostic teachers, Basilides and Valentinus, had been associated with the city in the first half of the second century. Clement came to Alexandria c. 180 on his educational pilgrimage. The Stromateis is Clement's longest and most important surviving work. Clement is especially concerned in the Stromateis with the broad subjects of the nature of God, creation, and faith. The Hypotyposeis appears to have been Clement's most extensive exegetical work. Eusebius describes it as containing brief explanations of all the canonical Scriptures, including even those Eusebius classed as disputed, namely Jude and the other catholic epistles, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Apocalypse of Peter. The On First Principles, written at Alexandria, is the earliest of the works of Origen that are not primarily exegetical.
  • 12 - The beginnings of Latin Christian literature
    pp 131-141
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.013
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The first Latin Christian literature appears to have been translations of portions of the Bible. The small Passio Sanctorum Scilitanorum is the earliest preserved Latin Christian document. It is the transcript of a portion of a trial of five Christians in Carthage in 180. Tertullian of Carthage is the first Latin Christian author who can be located and identified with relative precision. Tertullian's conversion to Christianity occurred, perhaps, in 193, and his earliest writings, Ad Martyras, Ad Nationes and Apologeticum, can be dated in 196-7on the basis of historical allusions to the immediate aftermath of the battle of Lugdunum. In De Baptismo Tertullian defends the necessity of baptism against an attack by a woman of the Cainite heresy who had been successful in making converts in Carthage. Tertullian also addressed various virtues and disciplines of the Christian faith. Acts 15:29 played an important part in Tertullian's later view on the forgiveness of post-baptismal sins.
  • 13 - Hippolytus, Ps.-Hippolytus and the early canons
    pp 142-151
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.014
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Hippolytus is one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of the early Church. In 1841 a single manuscript containing a Refutation of All Heresies was discovered and eventually attributed to Hippolytus. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the complete texts of some of his commentaries and homilies were discovered in Slavonic, Armenian and Georgian translations, and a few portions of his works in Greek. Eusebius, who provides the earliest information about Hippolytus, names him, along with Beryllus of Bostra and Gaius of Rome, as one of the learned churchmen of that time. The two works that go under the titles of the Canons of Hippolytus and the Apostolic Tradition represent a specialized field of study in themselves. The work known as the Apostolic Tradition appears in several collections of Church Orders dating from the fourth century, and is sometimes in longer and sometimes in shorter form. It exists in Sahidic, Bohairic, Arabic, Ethiopic and Latin versions.
  • 14 - Cyprian and Novatian
    pp 152-160
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.015
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Cyprian's writings fall into the two general categories of letters and treatises. Of the eighty-two letters, sixty are his, and six others are synodal letters of the African Church written by him. The remaining sixteen are letters addressed to him, or are letters to which he responded. Cyprian's first writings as bishop were composed between his election and the beginning of the Decian persecution. The laxist church which Felicissimus led in Carthage, and Novatian's rigorist church in Rome, splintered the unity of the Catholic Church. Cyprian addresses this issue in his most famous treatise, De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate. The return to the Catholic Church of converts baptized in Novatian's church raised the question of the legitimacy of baptism performed in a schismatic church. Cyprian's final writings were produced during his year of exile in the persecution of Valerian. He is concerned with the Church in its constitution and its daily life.
  • 15 - The earliest Syriac literature
    pp 161-171
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.016
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The work known as the Teaching of Addai, which belongs to the early decades of the fifth century, is more interesting for the light it sheds on Edessene Christianity of that time than for any reliable information it can give of the origins of Christianity in Edessa. A passage in The Laws of the Countries implies that Christianity had spread fairly widely in the East by the first half of the third century, and it is virtually certain that by that time much of both the Old and the New Testament would have been available in Syriac translation. The Syriac Old Testament, known as the Peshitta, is definitely a translation directly from Hebrew, and the earliest books to be translated probably go back to the second century AD, thus almost certainly constituting the earliest surviving monument of Syriac literature. By far the most extensive piece of early Syriac literature is the narrative known as the Acts of Thomas.
  • 16 - Concluding review: the literary culture of the third century
    pp 172-178
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.017
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Christian texts are becoming more embedded in the cultural and linguistic worlds around the Alexandrians, and their genres reflect that reality. The commentaries and sequences of exegetical homilies which emerge in the third century, particularly with Origen but also Hippolytus, indicate a level of professional attention to the texts that owes something to Jewish precedent but much more to the way in which Hellenistic scholars and philosophers approached the classical texts. Christian literature, however, was not simply concerned to establish Christian identity over against the wider culture and to distinguish it from Judaism. There was also the issue of where the true tradition lay, and Irenaeus' attempt to expose the falsehood of some claims to gnosis was taken up in further compendia which critically detailed the teachings of heretics, such as those of Hippolytus. One aspect of the developing Christian literary culture cannot be ignored: the primary activity of the community which produced it was worship.
  • 17 - Social and historical setting: Christianity as culture critique
    pp 179-199
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.018
  • View abstract
    Summary
    A more adequate way of understanding Christianity is as a process of culture critique within Roman society. Christianity originated within the matrix of Roman society and, as Roman society spawned Christianity, it was also changed by it. Christianity, in turn, was continuously shaped and constrained by the values, world-view and institutions of Roman society. The imperial bureaucracy, civic institutions, public values, patronage, and Roman notions of honor, mos maiorum, pietas, disciplina and Romanitasmoulded Christianity as much as its ecclesiastical crises and doctrinal disputes. The penetration of Christianity into the public classes made Christianity appear more threatening to the romanitas of those classes so essential for Roman hegemony. The politics of the African churches were dominated by Carthage, the city at the heart of Romanized Africa with direct lines to imperial power. Family religion in Christian homes honoured God with rituals of prayer recited three times a day.
  • 18 - Articulating identity
    pp 200-221
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.019
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The attempt to articulate the boundaries of Christian identity in the third century involved inner-Church debates between groups which held different views on what constituted Christianity. The Church had been engaged in a long struggle against the gnostic view of God, and that of Marcion. The former separated the highest God from the Creator God of the Old Testament, and the latter separated the Creator God of the Old Testament from the redeeming God of Jesus. Noetus' central doctrine was based on an argument which combined Scripture and Stoic logic. The dynamic monarchian doctrine was condemned for denying the deity of Christ. Christian identity concerned discipline as well as doctrine. Tertullian's views on discipline are focused in his teachings concerning post baptismal sins, asceticism, and martyrdom. Origen's Christian discipline was as strict as that of Tertullian, at least prior to the latter's adoption of Montanism. The Novatian schism raised the question of the nature of the Church.
  • 19 - Christian teaching
    pp 222-238
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.020
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Christian teaching in the third century displayed a complex integration of spiritual sensibility, textual interpretation, and philosophical reflection. Pedagogical aspirations within the Platonist tradition began with Socrates' sharp denunciation of the role of traditional poetic texts in shaping human character. In the Republic, Plato has Socrates vehemently oppose the poetic narratives that had long been the centrepiece of Greek moral education. Literary and philosophical strands in Greek culture had long been at odds with one another, and early Christian teachers exploited that internal cultural debate by endorsing Greek philosophy's demythologization of poetic, mythical traditions and by identifying parallels between pagan philosophical and Christian theological ideas. The fashioning of Christian identity in the third century did not turn principally on the alliance between Christian theology and Greek philosophy against the mythological texts of Greek religion. Instead, it turned on the displacement of culturally authoritative Greek texts by the Christian Bible.
  • 20 - The significance of third-century Christian literature
    pp 239-246
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.021
  • View abstract
    Summary
    From a historical point of view the significance of third-century Christian texts is incontestable. This is a fundamentally important era in the formation of Christianity. Reconstruction of the social situation and indeed of the major controversies of the third century depends upon evidence being gleaned from elsewhere, such as material preserved by Eusebius in writing his history in the next century. Recent theology has seen a revival of interest in the Trinity. The notion of God as being in some sense community in relationship has been attractive to those who wish to challenge modern individualism. The pluralism within postmodern theology has produced feminist and liberationist interpretations of the doctrine. For traditional churches the mystery of the Trinity is a fundamental identity-marker; but a widening ecumenism which embraces Pentecostalism cannot avoid the challenge this presents, since the Pentecostal churches are themselves divided over the Trinity.
  • 21 - Classical genres in Christian guise; Christian genres in classical guise
    pp 247-258
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521460835.022
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The 'Golden Age of Patristic Literature', the fourth and fifth centuries provides a mass of material which carries weighty literary and theological significance. Christian rhetoricians began to produce a new literature which had classical styles and genres but Christian content. The Constantinian revolution had reinforced the tendencies for Christians to come from the educated literary elites and to adapt classical modes of writing to Christian ends. History, for Eusebius, had become a kind of apologetic, an alternative method of proof that Christianity was true. Little of the Christian literature of the fourth and fifth centuries escapes influence from the classical traditions of antiquity, yet little of it can be analysed neatly according to the classical genres. The descriptions 'apologetic' and 'dogmatic' both appear as subsequent classifications, and raise questions about genre, and the point of generic analysis.

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