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Hilary of Poitiers begins his treatise De Trinitate with what appears to be an autobiographical narration of his journey to the Christian faith. Scholars, though taking different approaches to explain this narration, have overlooked its significance for Hilary's treatise. In the following essay, I argue that Book I is a reflection on sources of knowledge about God, the role of faith and reason in theological inquiry, the proper approach to scripture, and the soteriological context of any discussion on the mystery of God. These methodological reflections guide the reader through Hilary's treatise and make Book I crucial to understanding his purpose in De Trinitate.
In this article I argue that the essential relationship between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth stands in need of reassessment. This argument is based on a survey of literature dealing with Bonhoeffer and Barth in three basic areas between the critically important years of 1933 and 1935. These three areas come into sharp relief given the political background of the German Christian victory in the church elections of 1933. Their respective positions, both theological and political, on the Aryan clause differ greatly. For Bonhoeffer, the imposition of the Aryan clause on the German churches represented a clear status confessionis, and Bonhoeffer favoured a very public schism. For Barth, while the Aryan clause was certainly troublesome, it was deemed better to wait for a ‘more central’ point, namely, that of the question of natural theology. Barth's emphasis on the importance of the question of natural theology carries over in his position regarding the significance and role of both the Confessing Church and the ecumenical movement. We see that Bonhoeffer explicitly questions the validity of Barth's emphasis on natural theology with respect to the Confessing Church and to the ecumenical movement. While many scholars have argued for the basic agreement between Barth and Bonhoeffer, especially on the question of natural theology, a closer examination of the two in the period 1933–35 calls such conclusions into question.
Seventeenth-century puritans had the habit of speaking visually, talking pictures. Sermons and tracts from the English-speaking Reformed tradition made lavish use of vivid verbal images drawn from the Bible. Yet zealous Protestants wanted to strip images out of churches and books – and, some would say, even from the mind – in an ‘inner iconoclasm’ to match the outer. So why fill the mind's eye with pictures?
It is often thought that Protestantism, particularly of the Reformed variety, saw a decisive shift from the visual to the verbal. However, the move was by no means a clean break. Visual elements survived aplenty, though often transposed into new forms. The complexity of these changes has been well recognised by recent scholars, but the focus has been more on outward and material aspects of Protestant culture than on words (or, more accurately, the Word) as image-makers for the mind.
To understand the drive for verbal imaging in puritanism with more precision, this paper considers the experience of readers in a culture where print was new; aspects of Reformed theology that paved the way, in particular the stress on the unity of scripture that promoted interest in typology; the boost that new printed aids to Bible study – specifically, concordances – gave to drawing ‘mental pictures’ from scripture; and the relation of all this to making the Bible both easy to handle and memorable, which was a key element in the strategy to drive the Protestant message into the hearts and minds of the people.
In this paper, I argue that the influence of John's Gospel on R. L. Stevenson's novel The Master of Ballantrae is significant on several levels. On the level of narrative, I show that both texts are narrated from a perspective which shifts uneasily from omniscience to uncertainty. John's Gospel, particularly its closing chapters, offers a powerful model for the telling of the story of The Master of Ballantrae. The reliability both of Mr MacKellar, the novel's narrator, and of the mysterious editor of the material which makes up John's Gospel, is open to question. On the level of plot, the death, burial and ‘resurrection’ of James Durie, the ‘Master’, at least on one reading of the novel's title, mirrors the death, burial and resurrection of the Johannine Christ. This is no straightforward importation of one set of ideas onto another, rather an imaginative and sophisticated retelling of the climax of the Gospel story. Finally, on the level of characterisation, several of the characters in The Master of Ballantrae share features with players in the Gospel narrative, particularly those who appear in the Passion and resurrection scenes. Pilate's vacillations and Thomas's doubts flesh out our understanding of the characters who witness the death throes of the warring Durie brothers.
Robert Louis Stevenson had grown up hearing the Bible read at home and in church. Despite rejecting the faith of his parents in his twenties, he nevertheless continued to be drawn to the images and cadences of the Bible, and particularly of the Gospels. The relationship between The Master of Ballantrae and John's Gospel is not one of simple dependence: but the influence of the Gospel on the novel, I argue, is clear and distinctive.
This paper demonstrates the techniques used by five Syriac writers of the mid-fourth to early sixth centuries in interpreting the dominical injunction in Matt 18:3 to become like children in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Unlike modern critical approaches, early Syriac exegesis of this saying is shaped less by the surrounding context than by association with other scriptural texts, in a manner more reminiscent of Jewish midrashic technique. The writers are Aphrahat, Ephrem, the author of the Book of Steps, Narsai and Jacob of Serugh. This study notes the interaction in some of the sources with their interpretation of Gen 2–3 and demonstrates the influence of the writers' pre-existing protology and eschatology on their exegesis of the New Testament passage. Recurring themes include whether Adam and Eve were believed to be children before the fall; whether the goal of the believer should be a return to a state of prelapsarian innocence; the existence of sexuality before the fall; and how to imitate angels as well as children. Key terms used in the sources are ̆sabrutā ‘infancy’ or ‘naivety’, and gmirutā ‘perfection’ or ‘maturity’, and the rather different concepts they represent in the five writers.
The Dogmatic Theology of the nineteenth-century divine William Shedd has received little attention in the literature. Yet it contains a number of theologically interesting arguments. This article sets forth what Shedd has to say on the doctrine of the theanthropic person of Christ. I show that his doctrine of the person of Christ represents one important Chalcedonian stream of Christology, which, in Shedd's estimation, is intimately connected to two overarching themes in his dogmatics, namely, traducianism and Augustinian realism. His commitment to these two doctrines in his theological anthropology has important and unexpected implications for his Christology. Although the conclusion is that Shedd's doctrine of the person of Christ suffers from several serious problems, it represents an important contribution to systematic theology, which has more than historical interest.