Monday, July 9, 2007

A defense against Patriarchy (part 2)

This is the 2nd part of our series. As mentioned in the introduction if patriarchy has been normative throughout the history of Christianity until recently we would expect the written record to reflect that, our first stop off looking at the early to mid 2nd century. This is an interesting period of time since it reflects "the biblical church" that is the church prior to the emergence of a strong unified Catholic church. The churches are those churches founded by Paul and the apostles. Doctrines are still unsettled, the boundaries between Catholic and non Catholic Christianity, Christianity, Gnosticism, Logos worship, quasi-Jewish "god fearers" and mystery cults are vague and fluid. Quite simply it is this period where we see how the biblical writings and apostolic teachings were understood before the days of authoritative interpretation.

The first place we would expect to see evidence for a patriarchal structure in the church would be in the manual for administering the church used in the 2nd century, The Didache. This book written about 100 CE was early enough and authoritative enough that it almost made it into the bible, and in fact the Ethiopian Orthodox Church even accepts it as canonical (EOC canon).

We find that female submission is mentioned 0 times. On sections dealing with commanding other Christians what we find is that wives aren't even mentioned, "You shall not command your bondservant or your handmaid who trust in the same God as yourself when you are in a bitter mood, for fear that by chance they might cease to fear the God who is over both of you" Every time children are mentioned it is "children" or "sons and daughters". All commands are directed at both husbands and wives.

As a side note the book is also not oriented towards authority but rather values discussion and consensus building, "You shall not make a schism, but you shall pacify them that contend". Authority comes from the congregation, "Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and do not love of money, and who are true and approved".

It could be argued that male dominance was so clear accepted into the society that there was no need to mention it nor any need to explain to recent converts specific Christian rules governing it. That is, the typical counter argument to an argument from silence. We counter this with our next selection.

Moving forward a generation our pickings become much richer. At this point we could choose any number of Christian authors however we pick an extreme to prove our point and go with Valentinus (See also Wikipedia). Valentinus (100-160) was during his life viewed as an important Christian leader and major Christian philosopher (only Justin Martyr had similar influence). He was almost made pope and came in second to Pope Pius I. His claim to be a student of Theudas (who himself was a student of Paul) in uncontested by early authors. Even his theological enemies Irenaeus and later Tertullian never questioned his genius, his eloquence, his importance or the extent of his following (he had a huge following which grew for over a century after his death and which splintered off into a variety of non catholic Christian and quasi-Christian religions). A direct book of his (The Gospel of Truth) survives and the Pistis Sophia is a classic of the school he founded.

He is interesting for out study because Valentinus is even by modern definitions an egalitarian:

1) He utterly rejected the notion that God was a "father" in the sense of maleness (see Against the Valentinians, Tertullian ) and he even went so far as to popularize a female counterpart of Jesus.

2) He enforced equality within the church between men and woman, Among the Valentinians, women were considered to be equal, or at least nearly equal to men. There were female prophets, teachers, healers, evangelists and even priests. (Pagels The Gnostic Gospels, p 60) (see also Relationship with the Church).

3) He (and his followers) specifically addressed the patriarchal proof texts (for example 1Cor 11) and rules and taught that Paul's use of gender here was purely symbolic. In Valentinus' view the references to female and male were being used as analogies for Pneumatic (higher spiritual) vs. Psychic (lower spiritual) Christianity (i.e. esoteric vs. exoteric). The idea that Paul actually meant that wearing a hat would effect redemption or salvation was rejected out of hand. (Pagels's, Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters is the classic on this topic)

4) He rejects the notion of male headship entirely. The existence of two sexes is a degeneration of the splitting to syzygy into "male" and "female" parts (they will cleave together and become one flesh). Valentinus would (to use modern language for purposes of exposition) argue that gender is a construct, and would go so far as argue that biological maleness and femaleness are constructs which we will throw off through salvation.

5) He considers Mary Magdalene the greatest of the apostles and and creates a dichotomy between Peter (exoteric Christianity) and Mary (esoteric Christianity).

6) His writing are strongly anti authoritarian: suspicion of tradition, distrust of authority, dislike for dogma and objective statements of faith, and the pitting of the individual against the institution characterize this thinking.

etc... Now, there is no question that within 2 generations the "one God, one Bishop" school of Irenaeus is successful in driving the Valentinians out of the church by the mid 3rd century these ideas are completely rejected by Christianity. However by Irenaeus' own admission the majority of Christians were unable to discern the distinction between the Valentinians and the Orthodox Christians. There is no debate that Valentinians and Orthodox Christians worshipped right beside one another during Irenaeus's day. It is simply impossible that the Orthodox could have been authoritarian, male dominated, family church of the Doug Phillips variety and at the same time the Christians of the day were unable to distinguish them from Valentinian churches. Either Irenaeus is wrong about the types of churches he is attending or Phillips, et al. are wrong about the types of churches that existed.

We now move forward one more generation to 160, and choose a theme which will develop into the core of part 3. A very popular story among Christian woman of the time is the Acts of Paul and Thecla which tells the story of Saint Thecla of Iconium. With a century of her death she spawns the cult of St. Thecla, which spread over East and West, and made her the most famous of virgin martyrs. This book was originally part of the larger Acts of Paul, but this section was much more widely distributed and influential than the original larger work. Acts of Paul and Thecla have been known throughout all of Christian history, while the Acts of Paul were lost till approximately 1901.

The book is so important since it again presents a theology entirely inconsistent with the patriarchal theology. And this book unlike Valentinus above is "mainstream" Christian literature for centuries.
  1. The story sees marriage as taking one away from salvation. In fact the book essentially asserts salvation through virginity (and thus contains strongly anti family views)
  2. Specifically praises Thecla for disobeying her family and abandoning her Betrothed to follow Paul (again strongly anti family themes)
  3. Specifically presents Thecla as an independent Christian teacher / preacher sent out on her mission by Paul (pro woman teaching)
For example here are a selection of the blessings the book presents Paul as speaking (note the anti-family theme):
  • Blessed are they who keep their flesh undefiled, for they shall be
    the temple of God.
  • Blessed are they that abandon their secular enjoyments, for they
    shall be accepted of God.
  • Blessed are they who have wives, as though they had them not, for
    they shall be made angels of God.
  • Blessed are they, who for the love of Christ abandon the glories of
    the world, for they shall judge angels, and be placed at the right
    hand of Christ, and shall not suffer the bitterness of the last
    judgment.
  • Blessed are the bodies and souls of virgins, for they are acceptable
    to God and shall not lose the reward of their virginity, for the
    word of their Father shall prove effectual to their salvation in the
    day of his Son, and they shall enjoy rest forevermore.
Tertullian (3rd century) agrees with our contention, and writes in
But the woman of pertness, who has usurped the power to teach, will of course not give birth for herself likewise to a right of baptizing, unless some new beast shall arise like the former; so that, just as the one abolished baptism, so some other should in her own right confer it! But if the writings which wrongly go under Paul's name, claim Thecla's example as a licence for women's teaching and baptizing, (Tertullian, On Baptism)
This is key because it establishes important aspects of our case (for more detail):
  1. There were catholic churches where woman were both teaching and baptizing
  2. The legend of Saint Thecla was understood specifically as authorizing these
Now since the cult of Thecla was very widespread and the book was unquestionably widely distributed this makes a very strong case that patriarchal views were not normative but rather controversial 150-200.

Woman's Christian asceticism continued to develop and spread. John of Ephesus was the 6th centuryleader of the Monophysite Syriac-speaking Church, and author of Lives of the Eastern Saints. He traces the Thecla cult directly to the woman's ascetic movement of his day, which is the predecessor of the convent system of the middle ages. This convent system has survived relatively intact even in the modern world. Far from the cult of female virginity being non normative one can make a far better case that Protestantism's abandonment of chastity and virginity being held as an ideal is what is historically non normative for Christianity. 1Cor 7:1-9 hints that it is also non biblical.

And that is the theme we will explore in our next section. A supporter of patriarchy could examine this evidence and argue we looked too early. The world we were examining is before there was a single unified catholic church, before there was a single unified canon of scripture, before there were clear boundaries of ideology and heresy. They might argue the church and Christianity we are speaking about isn't really Christian but more like a proto-Christian church. When they speak of "normative" they meant the Catholic and later Protestant churches. So in the next section we fast forward almost 300 years to end of the Roman Empire when Christianity is a religion with a single hierarchy, a single canon, and a single unified faith and see if we discover Phillips's model of rule by fathers there.

30 comments:

Corrie said...

CD,

I have made a cursory reading over your newest article and I must say, I never really knew any of these things or a thing about any of the documents you cited. I did hear of the Didache in passing but I have not looked into its writings.

I am going to start with that.

I really think that getting the historical details correct from the beginning will put a lot of these hyper-patriarchal teachings in context.

I know that I have read some very derogatory writings concerning women and their lack of intellect and lower spirituality and necessary evil and being the gateway of Satan from some of the eary church fathers. Will you be getting to those writings, too?

Corrie said...

CD,

Forseeing one argument that will be raised in regards to the Didache......Some will argue that patriarchy was such an accepted part of life that there was no need to write about it since no one would even question the fact that fathers ruled and women obeyed and kept silent.

David Talcott said...

I'm not sure that putting the feminists/egalitarians into the same camp as Valentine and the Acts of Paul and Thecla is doing them a lot of favors. :) Association with heretics and apocyphal writings is probably not what they're going for.

But, yes, you're right, there were some groups that did this. You can find some additional relevant quotes here (I haven't verified the quotes, but as far as I can tell that source looks reliable). How mainstream you think such practices were probably depends on how mainstream you think other heretical beliefs and practices were. Either way, the orthodox view has been partiarchal, right? I suppose you will dispute that there is any orthodoxy at that point, but I think that would be a mistake. There was not big formal church hierarchy in the 1st and 2nd century, but that doesn't mean there were true and false beliefs, true and false continuations of the Gospel delivered by Jesus and the Apostles.

Corrie's points are helpful, also.

CD-Host said...


I know that I have read some very derogatory writings concerning women and their lack of intellect and lower spirituality and necessary evil and being the gateway of Satan from some of the eary church fathers. Will you be getting to those writings, too?


I can go in that direction. Actually the next article would be a perfect place for it. Saint Jerome is a contemporary of Augustine who despised woman and wrote pretty horrible stuff about them. However, he does so in an entirely different way than does Phillips, Wilson, Bayly crowd.

For Jerome, sex with a woman would be and I'm also quoting here, a repulsive act fit for pigs. True love is virginal, manly (homoerotic overtones?), chaste. A woman to be a good wife should as much as she is able act like a man. Childbirth was dirty, dangerous and animalistic, a regression to an almost non-human level....

The sexism (that almost asserts that non chaste woman are halfway between humans and animals) would probably not be so shocking to the modern patriarchs but the theology is very different. I can go there if you think it would be helpful.

CD-Host said...

David -

Thanks for the links. Most of the stuff is later 2nd century and 3rd century which is why I can't use it; but the battle goes on for another 100 years. But I agree with the quotes being authentic (FWIW), and I could have and probably should have mentioned that the battle doesn't end in the 2nd century but continues through to the 3rd. In any case, the non ascetic female egalitarians with normative theology disappear until the cathars (and much as I would love to discuss them, I think the cathars are likely to prove a distraction from the main point of the article.).

Either way, the orthodox view has been partiarchal, right?

It depends what you mean by patriarchal. I'll say more on your comments in the introduction. Under its usual definition, of patriarchal, absolutely orthodoxy is patriarchal. The anti-feminists win these early battles decisively and while there is continuous debate on where to draw the line anything that could remotely be called feminist (using a modern definition) is out of bounds. You could argue that Valentinus is the last person with opinions of gender that Andrea Dworkin wouldn't object to that's likely to get anywhere near the papacy for a long time. :-)

On the other hand my read of: Wilson and Phillips is that they aren't using the usual definition. Rather they are asserting a pro-family formulation:

-- The church is a collection of families not individuals
-- Woman's primary submission is to husbands or fathers
-- Wife and mother are the primary role for woman
....

(Bayly might fall in this camp, I'm not sure)

and there you can make a case that this was not the opinion of the church through time. That is that the church is hostile. I don't think you would find majority support for, "the woman was created as a helper to her husband, the bearer of children". I don't think the church would support that as a woman's purpose rather than as an activity of woman. In particular I think the church is much more divided on their attitude towards procreation and procreative sex.

CD-Host said...

David T --

One more point of follow up I forgot (especially now that I know which Blog you are coming from), i.e. this point certainly does apply to Bayly. Bayly needs to show that his interpretation of scripture's position on woman is the one that existed throughout history to prove his case. Showing that throughout history the leaders of Christianity held a multiplicity of views all of which contradict key elements of his theory. So for example in part 5 we get to the "Christian" doctrine of courtly love. This doctrine is certainly anti-feminist but it totally opposed to his theology.

My point is to show that there was no consistency in interpretation.

CD-Host said...

Corrie and DavidT-

I went with your suggestion and changed the transition between Didache and Valentinus. Tell me if this fixes the problem.

Anonymous said...

=Bayly and Phillips perspective on women may partially derive from the Talmud and the Apocrapha. I believe that other aspects derive more directly from the teachings of John MacArthur who attended Bob Jones University, one of the most rigidly conservative and criticized Baptist schools of theology in the US.

McGreggor Ministries' DVD presentation on the topic of "Women In Ministry" may help those with an interest in the topic.
http://strivetoenter.com/wim/women-in-ministry-silenced-or-set-free-dvd
Among other strange concepts held by the Baylys and Phillips of today, the DVDs present the ideas of many contributors to the Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (with much free, online audio available) who teach that woman is only a derivative image of God and subordinate because of her postition in the chronology of creation order. (How do they explain that Adam's sons were not also derivative in their relation to God's image?)

This would be a worthy avenue of pursuit in the origins of these beliefs after a thourough examination of these early works concerning the role of woman. (Just a thought for future pursuits.) I believe that this new phenomena is more reflective of 19th and 20th century fundamentalism than of teachings in the first century church.

CD-Host said...

Anonymous --

I think this series in the later parts will address this. For example in part 3 you see a doctrine involving married woman.

CD-Host said...

This is a response to this comment on the 1Tim 2:12 thread. Most of the material has to do with this post so I am moving the discussion here.

What I mean is that the tendency for liberal scholarship to take fringe Gnostic Christianity, paint it as modern egalitarians (which it is not) and then suppose that somehow the Gnostics and the Orthodox were all worshiping side by side until mean old Irenaeus changed everything, is dishonest and factually incorrect.

Even though "mean old Irenaeus" agrees what was going on? Even though every other church father agrees that what was going on. Even though the writings of the 2nd century Gnostics agree that was what was going on? Even though the NT itself agrees that was what was going on in the 1st century?

Where is your counter evidence for this?

I have spent much time reading the early Fathers and there is no hint of women bishops (I will discuss further below).

I'm not sure about women bishops. There is some light evidence on that issue. But in terms of women priests, how do you respond to the Tertullian quote where he is specifically claiming problem with women priests?

Here is the problem with your argument, you jump from Didache (which you claim doesn’t mention the subject although I will argue below that it at least hints at a masculine pastorate) to a Heterodox theologian. Those are the data points you provide. Let me provide some more data:

Actually I provide about dozens of data points. Moreover the orthodox theologian and the hetrodox theologian both agree what is going on. Also this series deals with documents as they were understood, and there is no evidence he is hetrodox during his life, after certainly but during he is a major leader. There is a lot of question if there even is an orthodoxy during his life.

First off, as an evangelical, I would argue that the only truly necessary data is in the New Testament so let me start there

And you are going to get into trouble there. Because the books you are about to cite are not clearly dateable. Moreover even if they are authentic and/or 1st century they aren't widely accepted or known until the 2nd century. So you are going to need to be a lot more careful with these NT books. But I'll start to address them in the next post...

CD-Host said...

the elders (the early church held a Presbyterian model) were male. It should be noted that the male presbyter model was what the Jews would have known (this is what the Jews of Jesus’ day practiced) and to change it would have required explicit expression

What source do you have that Jews used a a Presbyterian model? First off "Jews" is really vague here: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Gnostic magical cults... what do you mean by Jews in terms of government? The temple is run a state church with leadership appointed by secular government. The Pharisees don't have a notion of presbyteries, they have a global governing board and global courts with (possibly) influence based on ideology rather than geography. The Greek Jewish population is tied into the both the Sadducee and the Pharisee system loosely. The Philo type synagogues which were likely to be the "synagogues" that had Christians (before they broke off entirely) see the Sadducee (state church) model as more authoritative if anything but by in large subscribe to what would probably be called an anarchist model today. In the magical cults you see a guru model, essentially a despotism.

So no, I think the claim is too vague to be meaningful and when made more specific it is false.

I'll handle the part about Jesus back on the original thread so I'll skip that here.

Paul does something that was against the default. He permits women to learn. In the Jewish tradition, women were not allowed to learn from the Rabbi’s but Paul states without reservation that this is not the Christian model.

This is utterly totally completely false. There has never been a prohibition against women learning from Rabbis. Not then, not now. No hint of such a prohibition exists in Jewish literature at all. Women may lack opportunity, or incentive to learn but there is not and never has been a prohibition. It doesn't even make sense from a Jewish perspective to talk in that way. Again I'd like to see some evidence for this claim.

Do we see women as presbyters in the early church?

First off I think it is really important you get more specific about dates "early church" is often used to refer to several centuries, it is just much to vague a term. But to directly address, I would say we don't see anyone as presbyters (in the sense you are implying) in the early church. But we do see women running around teaching Christianity, conducting ceremonies and rituals, leading congregations founding schools and writing Christian religious texts. In this post I mention an entire "denomination" which is all women, the Thecla cult. In the Valentian school we see many others. So yes we do see them.

The rest of your posts deal with translating pronouns as "men" and assuming that is exclusive which is the same thing the ESV does everywhere and has been refuted dozens of times. By the sort of logic you are applying James 1:12 doesn't apply to women and God is indifferent or possibly hostile to them remaining steadfast in their faith.

Will said...

Ok, I know this sounds like a cop out but there is so much data on these issues that I think that it might be worth pointing you to a couple books before I respond. NT Wright (Oxford scholar, Anglican Bishop and egalitarian) wrote two books that are absoltely amazing when it comes to offering a solid overview first century Judaism as well as the broader pagan first century world. The two books are: "New Testament and the People of God" and "Jesus and the Victory of God." I highly recomend that if you are going to interact with these issues, you take the time to read these subjects. To understand the structure of the church in the first generation, there is a nice short book by another Oxford scholar named Roger Beckwith called "Elders in Every City". These books will give you some insight and prevent you from making mistakes like asking which Jews had patriarchial structures (Pharisees, Saduccess, etc) and lumping Gnostics in (gnosticism was greek not Jewish). Such a question displays a complete lack of knowledge of the patriarchial structures of first century Judaism (NT Wright discusses this in depth in the books above as well as his commentary on Luke). Reading them will also save you from asking questions like "I am not sure about bishops but what about priests". The english word priest comes from the greek presbytos (elder) and in the earliest days of the church there was no distinction between an overseer (bishop) and a presbyter (this is why my response to you used the terms interchangably).

It will also save you from asserting that the New Testament was written at a late date.

I don't want to be rude (many people are understandably ignorant on these subjects) but I think you should do a bit more reading before you enter into detailed discussions on the ecclesiastical structure of the first century.

Gnostics were, from the days of the apostles, a problem that rose out of bringing the gospel to the pagan nations. It was a sycretism (bringing greek philosophies into the very Jewish Christian religion). It is clear from the Scripture (and almost every major writer since) that it was always viewed as a problem that must be rejected (much like the witchcraft that is commonly employed in the African church). It was never mainstream or accepted. If Valentinus was really almost made bishop (they did not have Popes back then - something you will learn if you read the books I suggest), I think that he probably didn't come out of the closet as a gnostic until after he split (and this would include whatever gender decisions he made regarding priests). Tertullian (in the quote you provided) asserts that he was an innovator on the subject and I have made the argument that Tertullian was right.

You say that there was never a prohibition against women learning from the Rabbis. Perhaps you know more than NT Wright (he suggests this in his commentary on Luke pg 131). The patriarchial nature of the Rabbi-student relationship is pretty well accepted. Let me quote the New Interpreter's Commentary, "A Rabbi did not instruct women in the Torah". So your assertion that it is "completely false" shows that you clearly have a bit more research to do.

In conclusion, I think that there are egalitarians (like NT Wright) that will acknowledge pretty much all I have said but will make their cases along other lines of thought (reinterpreting 1 Timothy and suggesting that women in the presbytery faded out sometime between Jesus [35ad] and Clement [95ad]). As I have interacted with many very brilliant professors that make this case (as I noted, I attend an egalitarian seminary), I can say that none of them would take the strange and highly unlike approach you have taken.

If you want to make the egalitarian case, you might want to start with NT Wright in that he is the most respected New Testament egalitarian scholar (I have read his case though and think it is mistaken). I think that your mistake though is related to the fact that you are not Christian. You therefore, don't really care what the text says you just want it to support the position that you already hold. This is the difference between you and I. I want to know what the text says so that I can obey. You want to obey your own opinions and want the text to support them.

Accepting Jesus as Lord helps humble us. Please take the time to read the books I suggested. Wright is a fantastic writer and you will enjoy his works (although they are long) and Beckwith is very short (about 100 pages). Once you do that, I think we could have a much more productive conversation and could at least discuss from an informed foundation.

CD-Host said...

Will --

I'm familiar with N.T. Wright I've quoted him in other places. He is a decent site when sited in full. I think you should be a little more careful though in summarizing my mistakes.

CD-HOST statement: What source do you have that Jews used a a Presbyterian model? First off "Jews" is really vague here: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Gnostic magical cults... what do you mean by Jews in terms of government?

Will: These books will give you some insight and prevent you from making mistakes like asking which Jews had patriarchial structures (Pharisees, Saduccess, etc)

So where exactly am I asking which Jews have patriarchal structures?

______________

and lumping Gnostics in (gnosticism was greek not Jewish).

Actually that is not a mistake. That's what Birger Pearson got famous for. He proved the Graetz / Friendlander hypothesis that Gnosticism was a Jewish heresy first. "Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity" is the book where he collects his papers on that. Since then John Turner has been able to construct a specific example (the Sethians) from about 100 BCE - 350 CE of a Christian Gnostic evolution.

We can argue the facts here but just saying this is a mistake ain't gonna cut it.

Gnostics were, from the days of the apostles, a problem that rose out of bringing the gospel to the pagan nations. It was a sycretism (bringing greek philosophies into the very Jewish Christian religion).

I think you should stop using "Judaism" as if it were a unified religion in the first century. There are essentially a dozen religions which were born out of Judaism running around which you seem to be mixing up freely. What you are doing is the equivalent of talking about how all Christians use icons in their churches and don't approve of mixed dancing.


Hellenistic Judaism, the Judaism practiced by the majority of the Greek speaking Jews existed centuries before Christianity spread. That is the Judaism of the Greek speaking community already was Greek (in the mainstream community on the Philo sense of the word) and already was familiar with the philosophy of the gnostics. Jewish Gnosticism predates Christian Gnosticism and the dates you would assign to the origin of Christianity. The NT is written in Greek, that is when Christian literature emerges it does so out of Hellenistic Judaism. The current debate is about what sects within Hellenistic Judaism became Christian, most evidence points to it being the Gnostic sects.

So the line of succession is: Palestinian Judaism (pre Hasmonian) -> Jewish Gnosticism -> proto-Christian Gnosticism -> "orthodox Christianity"

Now that case is not fully proven, that what the last few generations of Gnostic scholars are trying to show. But the idea that anyone holding that view is unfamiliar with Wright's sources is nonsense.

However while the documentary evidence for the 1st century is thin (which is why I don't address it at all in the series) for 2nd century it is not. We have a plethora of Christian documents very few of which are "orthodox".

You say that there was never a prohibition against women learning from the Rabbis. Perhaps you know more than NT Wright (he suggests this in his commentary on Luke pg 131).

I think you should quote him word for word in context. Simeon ben Azzai command the teaching of torah to women. Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkonus was opposed but on the grounds it was impractical which I think shows that he knew of no prohibition. Rabbi Joshua held that Azzai's position was the majority at the time but argues for teaching women sprinklings here and there as there (i.e. maintain interest but no need for systematic study like one does with a boy).

There are discussions within the mishnah about whether Pharisee women i.e. women who have essentially a pre-rabbinic knowledge are more prone to adultery which mean such women existed.

I'm going to stop here and allow you to start your response over.

Will said...

Hi CD,

I can tell you are getting mad at me and I am sorry. I don't mean to be arrogant. These are complicated subjects and I have studied them for years so I just thought it might be useful to point you to some of the resources that I thought were most helpful. You are obviously interested in the subject and the books are very well written (I am jealous of Wright's perfect prose) - you will love the read, trust me.

NT Wright says in the preface of almost every book he has written that his arguments rest on the foundations of "New Testament and the People of God" and "Jesus and the Victory of God" any critic or admirer of NT Wright that has not read these two books will be greatly misinformed. In all seriousness, it is like judging a restaurant by only eating the bread roles.

Your summary of early Israel (especially the bit about gnostics) shows you do not have your arms around what Wright's thought is on the New Testament and are instead scanning his website for bits and pieces that you think might support your agenda.

Of course, you are right that Judaism was not perfectly unified. There were many stripes just as there are many stripes of any given religion in our own day. But there are generalities that reflect the general thought of the Jews of Jesus' day. Wright, in NTPG, makes the case that the Pharisees were fairly mainstream (de facto leaders of the people), Sadducees were the aristocracy (including priests) and that Essenes were a strange (non mainstream) sect. He argues that Zealots were simply the Pharisaic purists that wanted to overturn Rome. He goes into great depth to explain that gnostics (and the gnostic gospels we know them by) were much later and quite unJewish.

You quoting the mishnah and post temple destruction to make your case is a big mistake. It is clear to me that you have not used good enough sources to help you understand the difference between Judaism prior to the two Jewish wars in the first and second centuries, and later Mishnaic and Talmudic Judaism. You keep quoting the mishnah as though it is any sort of an accurate reflection on scripture or the development of the early church....this is a big mistake.

It is interesting that you ignored the discussion on the apostles (14 for 14 being male) and on the evidence from Clement and the other early texts indicating male leadership.

I think we have played this thread out but suffice to say, I am convinced that you have some homework to do before we go further. I highly recommend you read NTPG....you will love it. As a someone weird side note: it was the two NT Wright books I listed above along with his "Resurrection of the Son of God" that Anne Rice (author of Interview with a Vampire) credits with her Christian conversion a couple years ago. If you look on the NT Wright page you can hear a joint interview.

Will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will said...

correction: I said Wright makes the case that gnostics were 'much later' but I meant that he makes the case that the extant writings 'Thomas etc' were much later.

Will said...

In one final thought, I think it is important to keep in mind that in the Christian religion being low and humble is a good thing. Feminists that push for power and position in the church, in my opinion, demonstrate a certain confusion about what the religion is about.

Jesus said in Mark 10:42-44 "And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave."

Being truly great requires ministry. Mother Theresa will be remembered much more by God at the resurrection than Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead the Episcopal denomination.

You see, with true Christianity, life is death and death is life. The world is upside down. God builds up the humble and brings low the proud. Those that push and pull (and I would argue twist scripture) will not be blessed by God but will be brought low.

CD-Host said...

Will --

OK this is better.

Pharisees were fairly mainstream (de facto leaders of the people), Sadducees were the aristocracy (including priests) and that Essenes were a strange (non mainstream) sect.

No I agree with that for the Aramaic speaking community. Though it is still a little tricky because the Sadducees control the sacrificial cult and that is a key part of the religion until 69. So I think he is underplaying importance. In the Greek speaking community, things are much more complicated. He or you are oversimplifying. But even assuming you are correct where are the presbyterians in any of this? None of those 3 groups has that sort of structure?

He goes into great depth to explain that gnostics (and the gnostic gospels we know them by) were much later and quite unJewish.

Well then this thesis has been disproven unequivocally by Pearson and he is just wrong pure and simple. I can start going into details of various fragments but that is what Pearson's book does. That debate is over, no one (as far as I know) is disputing Pearson on his dating. But I note the correction below was that this meant to say that Gnostic gospels only were much later and unJewish....

In which case I'd need to know what we mean by "much later". If you mean 2nd century and others from the 3rd then yes I don't disagree. As for unJewish it depends on which ones and what we mean. All of Christianity (I'm being a bit loose here) by the 2nd century is unJewish. Its only in the 100BCE - 130CE there is much play back and forth after that the religions diverge forever. Most interplay is over by 73CE.

You quoting the mishnah and post temple destruction to make your case is a big mistake. It is clear to me that you have not used good enough sources to help you understand the difference between Judaism prior to the two Jewish wars in the first and second centuries, and later Mishnaic and Talmudic Judaism. You keep quoting the mishnah as though it is any sort of an accurate reflection on scripture or the development of the early church....this is a big mistake.

No I'm quoting the Mishnah as accurately reflecting the opinions of the Jews at the time it was written. I find it implausible that there could be a prohibition on teaching women and within 50 years this is seen as a positive duty, or that the Mishnah is completely fabricating opinions of rabbis whose students are still living. If that is your claim then OK but I'd like to see some positive evidence outside of the Mishnah for what Phariseedic Judaism actually taught in those periods. I'm citing rabbis from those periods where is your information coming from?

It is interesting that you ignored the discussion on the apostles (14 for 14 being male) and on the evidence from Clement and the other early texts indicating male leadership.

I didn't ignore it I was waiting to get clarity. OK here is the response

1) The first major mentions of Mark are 2nd century. While the gospel may be 1st century there is no evidence of wide acceptance of gospels until about 140 or much awareness widely until 130. So citing Mark is effectively just citing a 2nd century work, and there is no question that in the 2nd century there were people who believed all the apostles were male. That was never disputed in the article. The question was whether that view was held universally and it was not.

2) The 2nd century gospels are very mixed as to who were the apostles. Quite a lot of them (arguably the majority) list Mary Magdalene as being the greatest among the apostles.

3) Junia is listed as an apostle by Paul, in what in unquestionably a 1st century work that was widely accepted even during the 1st century as a key piece of Christian literature.

4) The traditions regarding Prisca indicate that Paul himself didn't hold your interpretations of the male apostleship.

5) Your interpretation that all the apostles were male and thus women could not teach was not widely asserted until the 5th century and then both the facts and the interpretation were still disputed during that century.

Which is to say the Christian community was mixed on this issue by the 2nd century. And the only real evidence we have from widely read 1st century documents say the exact opposite of what you claim is the case.

But Junia is not the article. Again Thecla is a 1st century character, Thecla, in at least a mythic sense, runs her own denomination. There aren't any men in the Thecla denomination. I don't know how much clearer an example you could ask for of female leadership. And Thecla is part of what becomes "orthodox" Christianity. I notice how you keep skipping her. She is very important to part 3 because over the next few hundred years you have the institutional church backing the position that being born with a vagina is not sufficient to permanently disqualify someone from ever holding a teaching position. They create institutional support and structures for female teachers.

I've refuted the aner stuff many other places as have others. Aner does not make something exclude women in Greek (though the arguments over it prove the gender inclusive bible people are correct that masculine pronouns / language does exclude women to modern American readers and is no longer understandable.

Will said...

Hi CD,

Ok, so your argument rests on a very late date of Mark and a denial of biblical innerrancy. We are really on completely different foundations.

You seem quick to dismiss Wright (an Oxford scholar who has taught at Cambridge and is world renowed by liberal and conservative alike) which I think speaks to your desire to win the battle instead of seeking the truth.

I know there is pride involved and that you are hoping to win this argument but I hope when the dust clears on this discussion you take the time to read those books I suggested.

Life is good following God and I hope you meet His grace someday. It is a wonderful thing to be in submission to Him and to follow where he leads. I remember reading a Jimi Hendrix quote in which he said (I paraphrase) that it was only when he learned the rules of playing guitar and practiced them until his fingers bled that he was truly free to enjoy the guitar and express himself. This is a good analogy for God in our life. If we, by faith, accept Him as Lord and then honestly seek out his statutes we will be truly free to be the humans we were meant to be. Those who think they are being independent (like guitar players who never bother to get lessons or practice) are really slaves to their own confusion and presuppositions. Freedom is God and God is freedom.

God bless, Will

CD-Host said...

I'm going to follow up for lurkers or later readers.

1) You'll notice that virtually every post involved some sort of ad hominem attack, on my being ignorant or prideful. The "you have cooties so your arguments are incorrect" defense.

2) The response to evidence has been to dismiss it. The example of Rabbinic opinion being noteworthy. A 2nd century document quoting 1st century opinion from leading rabbinic thinkers should be rejected because of a quickish summary in a study bible.

3) I never asserted nor needed a late date for Mark. I asserted that gospels became distributed heavily in the 2nd century which is AFAIK undisputed by historians.

4) I did not make use biblical errancy contrary to claims.

5) Yet again, and similarly to the debate blog, Thecla is not addressed. I'd recommend to readers that they use this argument. I have yet to see even an attempt at a refutation.

Will said...

1) I never said you had cooties. I would never say you have cooties. That would be mean.
2) Quirkish summary in a study bible?
3)Every first century Christian document we have (other new test books, clement, didache) seem to indicate some knowledge of the synoptic gospels. This is an argument from silence and simply untrue. For the record, you keep saying things are "undisputed" which seems to suggest that you have never read evangelical scholarship (I can name three famous evangelical scholars off the top of my head that dispute this claim).
4)If we take the bible as inerrant and normative than we can not say that other 2nd century data is just as relevant to the discussion. And you doing so, I believe suggests that you think that Mark could be wrong. Historically, it is scripture that has been considered representative of apostolic teaching.
5) totally willing to discuss thecla. not scared of thecla.

The problem with the whole discussion is that your knowledge of first and second century palistine appears to be based on a limited number of very liberal writers that you assume reflect the majority (or based on your claims that certain facts are undisputed perhaps all) of scholarship. I found that certain things that I would discuss that that I thought were basic first century knowledge (eg presbyter-bishops being the initial church governance) was not understood. This made the discussion difficult.

CD-Host said...

Every first century Christian document we have (other new test books, clement, didache) seem to indicate some knowledge of the synoptic gospels.

Find me a quote from the first century where they say cite the gospels, as a gospel by name. Do that with any of the 4. Even in the early-mid 2nd century gospel quotes are very rare. It isn't until 160 you will start seeing references to gospels by name popping up frequently.

I'll go further. I don't know of any scholar that disputes that first gospel with wide distribution is the Gospel of the Lord. There is debate among scholars as to whether Luke predates Lord or Lord is a revision of Luke but none about which circulated widely first.


This is an argument from silence and simply untrue.

The literate of the 2nd century is the materials the 2nd century authors quote. If they aren't quoting from it they are either unaware of it or not making heavy use of it.

That is a key premise of this whole series that the Christian literature is reflective of Christian practice. I make no apologies for that. If we ignore the literature and argue that stuff not present in the ancient literature is the practice and belief then one can easily read Scientologist Xenu God complete with space ships right into early Christian belief.

For the record, you keep saying things are "undisputed" which seems to suggest that you have never read evangelical scholarship (I can name three famous evangelical scholars off the top of my head that dispute this claim).

I don't doubt it. "Evangelical scholarship" tends to read protestantism back to the early church. It is hard to even imagine Protestantism without "the bible". But ultimately this is an act of faith.

The next part of this series has the bible, and actually quite a few bible quotes. You get your bible in the in the late 4th century (well including the Apocrypha).


If we take the bible as inerrant and normative than we can not say that other 2nd century data is just as relevant to the discussion. And you doing so, I believe suggests that you think that Mark could be wrong. Historically, it is scripture that has been considered representative of apostolic teaching.

Hold on a second, normative is different than inerrant. This series never makes claims one way or the other about errancy. But except for part 6 (which starts in the late 18th century) the whole series rejects that Protestantism is normative. Part 2 is primitive Christianity, 3-5 Catholic Christianity (5 does discuss proto-Protestantism of the high middle ages at length because most of my readers are Protestant).

So lets not conflate those two issues one bit. They aren't the same at all. To hold that Protestantism is normative in the 2nd or later centuries is to engage in blatant revisionism, completely unsupported by the historical record. I'll ignore the 1st century since that gets into essentially of the faith but from the 2nd on, I'm looking at evidence.

So if evangelical scholars you mean people who argue for early Protestantism yes I don't take them seriously at all. Now N.T. Wright does not fall into that category which is why I was happy to discuss him, in context.

Historically, it is scripture that has been considered representative of apostolic teaching.

I don't address the 1st century in this series at all. What the apostles actually taught is frankly irrelevant. It is what they are believed to have taught by Christians in various eras that is being discussed. Reread part 1.

I thought were basic first century knowledge (eg presbyter-bishops being the initial church governance) was not understood.

Yeah I'm not psychic. You want to propose some sort of non-historical governance where those two are synonyms. Yeah you are going to have to explain it. Every first century Christian document we have (other new test books, clement, didache) seem to indicate some knowledge of the synoptic gospels.

Find me a quote from the first century where they say cite the gospels, as a gospel by name. Do that with any of the 4. Even in the early-mid 2nd century gospel quotes are very rare. It isn't until 160 you will start seeing references to gospels by name popping up frequently.

I'll go further. I don't know of any scholar that disputes that first gospel with wide distribution is the Gospel of the Lord. There is debate among scholars as to whether Luke predates Lord or Lord is a revision of Luke but none about which circulated widely first.


This is an argument from silence and simply untrue.

The literate of the 2nd century is the materials the 2nd century authors quote. If they aren't quoting from it they are either unaware of it or not making heavy use of it.

That is a key premise of this whole series that the Christian literature is reflective of Christian practice. I make no apologies for that. If we ignore the literature and argue that stuff not present in the ancient literature is the practice and belief then one can easily read Scientologist Xenu God complete with space ships right into early Christian belief.

For the record, you keep saying things are "undisputed" which seems to suggest that you have never read evangelical scholarship (I can name three famous evangelical scholars off the top of my head that dispute this claim).

I don't doubt it. "Evangelical scholarship" tends to read protestantism back to the early church. It is hard to even imagine Protestantism without "the bible". But ultimately this is an act of faith.

The next part of this series has the bible, and actually quite a few bible quotes. You get your bible in the in the late 4th century (well including the Apocrypha).


If we take the bible as inerrant and normative than we can not say that other 2nd century data is just as relevant to the discussion. And you doing so, I believe suggests that you think that Mark could be wrong. Historically, it is scripture that has been considered representative of apostolic teaching.

Hold on a second, normative is different than inerrant. This series never makes claims one way or the other about errancy. But except for part 6 (which starts in the late 18th century) the whole series rejects that Protestantism is normative. Part 2 is primitive Christianity, 3-5 Catholic Christianity (5 does discuss proto-Protestantism of the high middle ages at length because most of my readers are Protestant).

So lets not conflate those two issues one bit. They aren't the same at all. To hold that Protestantism is normative in the 2nd or later centuries is to engage in blatant revisionism, completely unsupported by the historical record. I'll ignore the 1st century since that gets into essentially of the faith but from the 2nd on, I'm looking at evidence.

So if evangelical scholars you mean people who argue for early Protestantism yes I don't take them seriously at all. Now N.T. Wright does not fall into that category which is why I was happy to discuss him, in context.

Historically, it is scripture that has been considered representative of apostolic teaching.

I don't address the 1st century in this series at all. What the apostles actually taught is frankly irrelevant. It is what they are believed to have taught by Christians in various eras that is being discussed. Reread part 1.

I thought were basic first century knowledge (eg presbyter-bishops being the initial church governance) was not understood.

Yeah I'm not psychic. You want to propose some sort of odd approach I think I'm entitled to a few sentences of explanation. Here is the reality:

1) Those terms are not synonyms. Ignatius spends a great deal of time arguing for the subordination of the hoi presbyteroi to episkopoi. So whatever they may have meant they did not mean the same thing in the early church.

2) hoi presbyteroi was not universally or even widely a Jewish term. It may have been used by Jews by Egyptian villages.

3) There may have been churches that used them to mean the same thing at some point (I Clement).

4) From what we can tell from 1st century non Christian sources: presbyteroi meant head of household and episkopoi was a title of honor within a political structure

5) Very quickly the words came to mean priest and bishop in the modern sense and both were church offices.

I still don't know what your position is, nor do I consider myself ignorant for not having guessed it. But I'd say the evidence we do have is relatively consistent with the Catholic position on what those words meant.

More importantly regardless of what they meant in the 1st century there is no dispute what they mean in 2nd and 3rd. Even writers who reject Bishops agree they exist as city wide officials who claim authority over the churches vs. priests which is a person performing rites within a local church.

So going back to your original comment, "the elders (the early church held a Presbyterian model) were male. It should be noted that the male presbyter model was what the Jews would have known (this is what the Jews of Jesus’ day practiced) and to change it would have required explicit expression – the default was male presbyters (presbyter means ‘elder’ which is the biblical role of pastor)"

1) The Jews did not have a presbyteroi model
2) The word was essentially unknown to the mainstream Jewish community
3) The tie between presbyteroi and priest seemed to be later in the 1st century and non Jewish
4) Your tie between pastor and priest i.e. presbyteroi meaning pastor, in I assume some protestant sense, has no historical support.
5) The Jews did have village elders but they didn't have a religious function and it wouldn't have applied to city Jews to whom the letters were addressed.

And I could keep going. So yet again I don't think the problem is ignorance but rather you believe that the historical revisionism to which you have been exposed are universally held views.

Will said...

Interesting. You do realize that some of the greatest scholars in the world today are evangelical (Wright, Witherington, Beckwith McGrath etc). Wright, Beckwith and McGrath have taught at little fundamentalist colleges like Oxford and Cambridge. Witherington has lectured at little places like Yale. You complain about ad hoc attacks and then you dismiss a large segment of scholarship because you disagree with their conclusions....ok, that is certainly your choice.

If you ever do decide to be a little more open minded check out the books I suggested. You will find that your arguments are actually very disputed. Pretty much everything that you have suggested are "undisputted" are simply liberal presuppositions that depend on the argument that anything that claims miricles must be late.

Will said...

Here is an article on the DaVinci Code where Wright addresses many of the issues we are discussing surrounding gnosticism and the early date of the New Testament:

http://www.spu.edu/depts/uc/response/summer2k5/features/davincicode.asp

Here is a quote of Wright contrasting the early date of the New Testament Gospels to the Late Date of the Gnostic Gospels:

"By contrast [to the gnostic gospels], the canonical gospels — despite every effort to prove the contrary — are still regarded by the great majority of scholars as early, written within at the outside 50 years of Jesus’ lifetime, quite possibly much sooner. The New Testament documents are solidly rooted in the first century. The gospels are dependent in turn on traditions that are very early indeed. Professor Richard Bauckham of St Andrews, who knows more about early Christian traditions than most other scholars put together, is about to publish a book arguing for a much stronger eye-witness content in the canonical gospels than has normally been supposed. The Christian writers of the early second century know and revere the four canonical Gospels, but show no knowledge of traditions like the Gnostic writings. When the canon of the New Testament was finally decided upon, it was not a matter of selecting four books arbitrarily from a list of several dozen. It was a matter of noting that these four Gospels had been known from very early onto have been the core testimony to Jesus."

CD-Host said...

Will -

1) That article is designed for a popular audience and oversimplifies. There are lots of sentences which are factually false but in general true. He's trying to cover a lot of material quickly. You don't want to hang your hat on that.

Though it gives a pretty good example of why Evangelical Scholarship needs to be treated carefully. The tendency to confuse scholarship with apologetics.

2) Wright's article addresses Dan Brown who is another popularizer of an oversimplified theory Christian development that appears in a work of fiction. Someone I haven't cited or referred to. I find it interesting that you want to engage a popular fictional book rather than the real scholars I have cited Turner, Pearson, Pagels...

3) Even though Dan Brown writes almost completely nonsense, the article itself doesn't actually prove any points. It assumes the key point in question, " The argument that the Nag Hammadi collection is demonstrably derived from the earlier, and now canonical, material, is more technical again and I shall not attempt to make it here. ". This is depressing. Wright does a better job elsewhere but he should clearly footnote where he does it at the very least.

4) No where have I mentioned gnostic gospels at all. Stop responding to things I didn't actually write. That is called misrepresentation and it is a dishonest debate technique. If you want to debate, I write what I right and you get to refute what I wrote, not try and misrepresent it and then refute that.

The only gospel I've addressed is Mark and that was on your insistence. This series does not address the 1st century as I've said several times already. If you want to start addressing 1st century then perhaps the smart thing to do would be to ask what I opinion is and then debate that.

5) Having read the article now I have confirmation about what I suspected was your point of confusion about Judaism and where this is coming from. It seems that you are a fan of Wright. When Wright is talking about Judaism, because he places Jesus within a Palestinian context, he is speaking about Palestinian Judaism. This post addresses Christian literature of the 2nd century and the Christian community which is essentially all in Greek. The Judaism of Greek speaking Jews is Alexandrian Judaism. Alexandrian and Palestinian Judaism had evolved away from each other for four and a half centuries by 120 CE.

And before you jump on your "evangelical scholar" horse. This is not a mistake of Wright's it is a mistake of yours. He is aware of it and deals with it. Since you have "The New Testament and the People of God", I'd suggest Chapter 9, The beliefs of Israel. He uses "Philo" for shorthand for Alexandrian Judaism in that chapter and does a good job of explicating the differences. Incidentally if you read the footnotes in that section you get lots of good references to Pearson as well. You may reject the breakdown of Judaism that I'm presenting but Wright does not.

However, and this is key, Wright's whole career has been based on attempting to refute people like Crossen. Wright sees Jesus as being within mainstream Judaism. Crossen takes his position (Jesus as a Hellenist) because he considers Q1 to be the most authentic. Wright argues that the narrative elements are the most important and these don't show the same Hellenized influences. I don't take a position on that issue in this series at all.

Will said...

1) That article is designed for a popular audience and oversimplifies. There are lots of sentences which are factually false but in general true. He's trying to cover a lot of material quickly. You don't want to hang your hat on that.

Of course it is simplified. He supports all this in New Testament and the People of God. Did I mention you should read that?

Though it gives a pretty good example of why Evangelical Scholarship needs to be treated carefully. The tendency to confuse scholarship with apologetics.

And liberals never confuse agenda and scholarship.

2) Wright's article addresses Dan Brown who is another popularizer of an oversimplified theory Christian development that appears in a work of fiction. Someone I haven't cited or referred to. I find it interesting that you want to engage a popular fictional book rather than the real scholars I have cited Turner, Pearson, Pagels...

No, I don't have any desire to engage Brown. But you refuse to read any evangelical scholarship (ie the books I have offered) so I figured a short article might get your attention to see that the things you think are "undisputed" are in fact quite disputed. I think the point has been made.

3) Even though Dan Brown writes almost completely nonsense, the article itself doesn't actually prove any points. It assumes the key point in question, " The argument that the Nag Hammadi collection is demonstrably derived from the earlier, and now canonical, material, is more technical again and I shall not attempt to make it here. ". This is depressing. Wright does a better job elsewhere but he should clearly footnote where he does it at the very least.

The article is a summary. He documents it very well in "New Testament and the People of God."

4) No where have I mentioned gnostic gospels at all. Stop responding to things I didn't actually write. That is called misrepresentation and it is a dishonest debate technique. If you want to debate, I write what I right and you get to refute what I wrote, not try and misrepresent it and then refute that.

You used the gnostic Valentinus and presumed that his writings (Nag Hammadi included "Gospel of Truth" thought by many to be linked to Valentinus) so you have hung your hat on the gnostics and Wright shows clearly in his books (as he summarized in his condemnation of Brown) that these are late. You can not have your cake and eat it. Either the gnostics were late and somewhat separate or they were early and mainstream. You have chosen the later and said that this position was undisputed. I have simply provided one example of dispute (there are many others).

The only gospel I've addressed is Mark and that was on your insistence. This series does not address the 1st century as I've said several times already. If you want to start addressing 1st century then perhaps the smart thing to do would be to ask what I opinion is and then debate that.

I brought up Mark to show that the egalitarianism that you claim to be there is illusion. I think that was pretty relevant.

5) Having read the article now I have confirmation about what I suspected was your point of confusion about Judaism and where this is coming from. It seems that you are a fan of Wright. When Wright is talking about Judaism, because he places Jesus within a Palestinian context, he is speaking about Palestinian Judaism. This post addresses Christian literature of the 2nd century and the Christian community which is essentially all in Greek. The Judaism of Greek speaking Jews is Alexandrian Judaism. Alexandrian and Palestinian Judaism had evolved away from each other for four and a half centuries by 120 CE.

I am aware of what you are arguing and have no doubt that there was confusion in the outer reaches of Christendom. What I care about is what Christ taught, what the apostles taught and how people that claim to follow Christ and the apostolic teachings should act. If you think that Christ and the apostles taught one thing (complementarianism) but since Valentinus and some other gnostics taught something else (egalitarianism) we should follow that, then I think we might agree more than you are contending. But if your appeal to Valentinus is that he was representative of Christ and the apostles (therefore normative) then we disagree.

And before you jump on your "evangelical scholar" horse. This is not a mistake of Wright's it is a mistake of yours. He is aware of it and deals with it. Since you have "The New Testament and the People of God", I'd suggest Chapter 9, The beliefs of Israel. He uses "Philo" for shorthand for Alexandrian Judaism in that chapter and does a good job of explicating the differences. Incidentally if you read the footnotes in that section you get lots of good references to Pearson as well. You may reject the breakdown of Judaism that I'm presenting but Wright does not.

Hmmm. Have you actually read the book or are you doing a google books search? You are clearly not understanding Wright in context. It is a 600 page book and taking snippets out of context is not advisable.

However, and this is key, Wright's whole career has been based on attempting to refute people like Crossen. Wright sees Jesus as being within mainstream Judaism. Crossen takes his position (Jesus as a Hellenist) because he considers Q1 to be the most authentic. Wright argues that the narrative elements are the most important and these don't show the same Hellenized influences. I don't take a position on that issue in this series at all.

No? Your presuppositions are all over the place. You argue that evangelicals have agendas (and by inference that liberals do not). You use Wright when he fits your agenda and then you set him aside when he refutes you.

CD-Host said...

But you refuse to read any evangelical scholarship (ie the books I have offered)

I've never refused to read evangelical scholarship. You simply asserted I hadn't read it and proceeded to misrepresent it. What I do however require is that it stand as scholarship and it not engage in all sorts of begging the question type analytics. In particular (regarding your treatment of Presbyterian government structures for Jews) reading Protestantism back into the ancient world.

so I figured a short article might get your attention to see that the things you think are "undisputed" are in fact quite disputed.

Now I'm going to treat this like an honest mistake, but I am losing my patience. What I asserted was undisputed was "I never asserted nor needed a late date for Mark. I asserted that gospels became distributed heavily in the 2nd century which is AFAIK undisputed by historians. "

The article doesn't address the distribution of Mark in the 1st century at all. It says nothing about it one way or the other. Rather what Wright asserts is that 2nd and 3rd century documents are based on the synoptics. To prove that there is dispute about Mark being heavily distributed (not authored) during the 1st century you need sources which talk about a first century Christian synoptic tradition. That is a Christianity based on a synoptic which is non local.

What doesn't suffice is taking a bunch of later books and saying they are based on Mark. Now I clarified distribution not authorship and 1st century not 2nd century already.

You used the gnostic Valentinus and presumed that his writings (Nag Hammadi included "Gospel of Truth" thought by many to be linked to Valentinus) so you have hung your hat on the gnostics and Wright shows clearly in his books (as he summarized in his condemnation of Brown) that these are late.
He shows clearly that gnosticism was late? That would be news to him. What exactly does "hung my hat mean". I've argued that Valentinus was popular and mainstream during his lifetime and for the next 50 years. What does that have to do with 1st century authorship?


You can not have your cake and eat it. Either the gnostics were late and somewhat separate or they were early and mainstream.

There are several other options, you are missing here. The date of the Gnostic gospels is not necessarily the date of the Gnostic epistles. Gnostic epistles like Apocalypse of Adam date back much further, with strong evidence pointing towards dates like 100BCE. Gospels of Sophia (from which some of the Jesus gospels are constructed) starting with Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon continue to develop and again date back to around the same time. Gnosticising Judaism is really old. And Wright btw in the book you keep mentioning dates it the same way I do.

That is Wright know this and says it in his more academic literature. But when he writes a popular article, yet he doesn't mention this. He is deliberately trying to create a false impression. That is the sort of dishonesty that makes me mistrust Evangelical scholarship.

But again we are talking about the 2nd century. So even if I grant your position (which is not Wright's), that everything in Gnosticism is late that doesn't refute the article.

You have chosen the later [gnosticism was early and mainstream] and said that this position was undisputed.

1) That isn't the position I said was mainstream.
2) There is strong evidence for it, as presented in the article. The Catholic Church doesn't dispute this. Some evangelicals do, but few (perhaps none) who work on 2nd century Christianity
3) The article never asserts early.

I brought up Mark to show that the egalitarianism that you claim to be there is illusion. I think that was pretty relevant.

Really, when did I say anything about Mark being egalitarian? Particularly canonical Mark. I don't think much about the fact that this gospel has all male apostles

If you think that Christ and the apostles taught one thing (complementarianism) but since Valentinus and some other gnostics taught something else (egalitarianism) we should follow that, then I think we might agree more than you are contending. But if your appeal to Valentinus is that he was representative of Christ and the apostles (therefore normative) then we disagree.

The series doesn't take a "we should X position", though I think my position is obvious. What it does is refute the position which patriarchal Christians asserted (patriarchals are one step to the right of complementarianism) that patriarchy was the universal opinion until the last century. In that case the women were complementarian and the men were patrichal (women can't speak it church at all, women shouldn't hold jobs for money, courtship negotiated between suitor and father....). That is I deal with a question of fact, not opinion what was the attitude of the church through time.

I don't think the apostles taught complementarianism nor that it was "normative" for the simple reason the view is unknown to the later church. See parts 3-5. Complementarianism seems to be a view that came out of the romantic era and the freelove movement (freelove meant something different in the 18th century than it does today).

Instead of trying to guess where I'm going, read the articles. You certainly have spent enough time debating me, if you are going to keep debating it might help if you actually knew the positions in the article. And when you do stop adding your own theories to it. I try and be precise I'm saying what I'm mean to say.

You are clearly not understanding Wright in context.

You've said things like this over and over. So far I've had to correct you coming on two dozen times when you haven't understood my points at all on pretty basic stuff. Your facts have been way off, the rabbi example being a good one and the confusion between gnostic gospels and gnosticising Judaism being another So frankly your credibility regarding my mentality deficiencies is shot. Sorry.

You use Wright when he fits your agenda and then you set him aside when he refutes you.

I've been using Wright mainly because you brought him up. In general evangelicals listen to him because "he's one of us".

So here is my position on Wright. Wright pretty much repackages E.P. Sanders. I think Wright is very creative. I also happen to agree with his critique on Crossen and the inherent conflicts in Crossen's model. I think both Sanders and Wright make some pretty huge leaps in assuming the evolution of Christianity, I side with Turner, Wells, etc... who Wright doesn't address. That being said most facts in Wright's book are correct.

So I agree with his facts and his minor conclusions even though I consider his major conclusions way off base. That being said I feel free to indicate where Wright is disagreeing with you and agreeing with me; particularly when you are citing him to refute me and prove that I am stupid, prideful and dishonest based on the fact that I don't understand Wright. I'm very familiar with Wright through Sanders whom I read in the early 90s.

But nothing in this article is controversial on the Crossen / Wright axis. I stayed away from those points of debate and went for the 2nd century where these is much less speculation. What's happened from the beginning is you fail to make critical distinctions between periods of time and groups of people in reading me or in reading Wright.

Your "when Wright has refuted you" is a good example of this. Wright wasn't even addressing me as I explained above.

Will said...

But you refuse to read any evangelical scholarship (ie the books I have offered)

I've never refused to read evangelical scholarship. You simply asserted I hadn't read it and proceeded to misrepresent it. What I do however require is that it stand as scholarship and it not engage in all sorts of begging the question type analytics. In particular (regarding your treatment of Presbyterian government structures for Jews) reading Protestantism back into the ancient world.

You have shown that you haven't read it by your comments and you have confirmed it by attacking the entire group of scholars. So, let's remove the mystery and answer the question: "Which Evangelical Scholars have the read. Specifically which books (short articles don't count)?

The presbyterian government question is one that Beckwith (professor at Oxford) advanced and I simply cited. Beckwith makes the case that the Jews had an elder (elder is the english of presbyter) model. You can read about it in his brief book called "Elders in Every City". In his chapter "The Jewish Presbyter or Elder" he writes extensively about the structure of Synagauges and the development of elder goverance. Feel free to check the book out. I thought it was very helpful.

so I figured a short article might get your attention to see that the things you think are "undisputed" are in fact quite disputed.

Now I'm going to treat this like an honest mistake, but I am losing my patience. What I asserted was undisputed was "I never asserted nor needed a late date for Mark. I asserted that gospels became distributed heavily in the 2nd century which is AFAIK undisputed by historians. "

The article doesn't address the distribution of Mark in the 1st century at all. It says nothing about it one way or the other. Rather what Wright asserts is that 2nd and 3rd century documents are based on the synoptics. To prove that there is dispute about Mark being heavily distributed (not authored) during the 1st century you need sources which talk about a first century Christian synoptic tradition. That is a Christianity based on a synoptic which is non local.

What doesn't suffice is taking a bunch of later books and saying they are based on Mark. Now I clarified distribution not authorship and 1st century not 2nd century already.

You are begging the question. The fact is that the earliest documents we have (including the books of the new testament) demonstrate knowledge of the canonical gospels. You are suggesting because there is limited literature available that therefore the gospels must not have been known. I can turn this around. I assume they were known and would like one shred of evidence that they were not. It makes sense that they were known given the heavy dependance on the apostles in the early church and the need to tell a story to all nations (they would need to distribute the apostolic accounts). Why do you think that decades later they "all of the sudden" gained popularity?

You used the gnostic Valentinus and presumed that his writings (Nag Hammadi included "Gospel of Truth" thought by many to be linked to Valentinus) so you have hung your hat on the gnostics and Wright shows clearly in his books (as he summarized in his condemnation of Brown) that these are late.
He shows clearly that gnosticism was late? That would be news to him. What exactly does "hung my hat mean". I've argued that Valentinus was popular and mainstream during his lifetime and for the next 50 years. What does that have to do with 1st century authorship?

Now you are twisting my words. I said that Wright shows that the gnostic writings are comparitively late. Obviously if Valentinus wrote his gospel in the mid to late second century, it could not have been widely distrubuted before that.

You can not have your cake and eat it. Either the gnostics were late and somewhat separate or they were early and mainstream.

There are several other options, you are missing here. The date of the Gnostic gospels is not necessarily the date of the Gnostic epistles. Gnostic epistles like Apocalypse of Adam date back much further, with strong evidence pointing towards dates like 100BCE. Gospels of Sophia (from which some of the Jesus gospels are constructed) starting with Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon continue to develop and again date back to around the same time. Gnosticising Judaism is really old. And Wright btw in the book you keep mentioning dates it the same way I do.

Let me be clear, I am not arguing gnosticism is late. I am arguing that gnostic Christianity was second to Jewish Christianity and that is consistent with Wright. If you are arguing that the Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon are gnostic you are quite wrong. And you keep mentioning the books I have noted, have you read them? Or are you just googleing thier pages for points that you think help your case? Context is pretty important if you want to not distort things.

That is Wright know this and says it in his more academic literature. But when he writes a popular article, yet he doesn't mention this. He is deliberately trying to create a false impression. That is the sort of dishonesty that makes me mistrust Evangelical scholarship.

Remind me, which evangelicals have you read. Or are you pre judging (prejudiced against evangelicals)? Thank goodness we have those liberal scholars like Crossan that never advance agendas.

But again we are talking about the 2nd century. So even if I grant your position (which is not Wright's), that everything in Gnosticism is late that doesn't refute the article.

You have chosen the later [gnosticism was early and mainstream] and said that this position was undisputed.

1) That isn't the position I said was mainstream.
2) There is strong evidence for it, as presented in the article. The Catholic Church doesn't dispute this. Some evangelicals do, but few (perhaps none) who work on 2nd century Christianity
3) The article never asserts early.

You assert that the Gnostic Valentinus was an egalitarian and that his egalitarianism was reflective of the broader Christian world. I would assert that Valentinus was a mid second century theologian that chose to go against orthodoxy (perhaps after being passed over for bishop) and then decided to bring women into his church. This seems much more likely to me.

I brought up Mark to show that the egalitarianism that you claim to be there is illusion. I think that was pretty relevant.

Really, when did I say anything about Mark being egalitarian? Particularly canonical Mark. I don't think much about the fact that this gospel has all male apostles

So you admit that canonical Mark is patristic?

If you think that Christ and the apostles taught one thing (complementarianism) but since Valentinus and some other gnostics taught something else (egalitarianism) we should follow that, then I think we might agree more than you are contending. But if your appeal to Valentinus is that he was representative of Christ and the apostles (therefore normative) then we disagree.

The series doesn't take a "we should X position", though I think my position is obvious. What it does is refute the position which patriarchal Christians asserted (patriarchals are one step to the right of complementarianism) that patriarchy was the universal opinion until the last century. In that case the women were complementarian and the men were patrichal (women can't speak it church at all, women shouldn't hold jobs for money, courtship negotiated between suitor and father....). That is I deal with a question of fact, not opinion what was the attitude of the church through time.

I don't think the apostles taught complementarianism nor that it was "normative" for the simple reason the view is unknown to the later church. See parts 3-5. Complementarianism seems to be a view that came out of the romantic era and the freelove movement (freelove meant something different in the 18th century than it does today).

Instead of trying to guess where I'm going, read the articles. You certainly have spent enough time debating me, if you are going to keep debating it might help if you actually knew the positions in the article. And when you do stop adding your own theories to it. I try and be precise I'm saying what I'm mean to say.

If you are not going to support egalitarianism in the church, then maybe I have misjudged you. If you are arguing for egalitarianism then you have to confront the fact that Scripture gives the picture of Christ picking 12 males to be his disciples. The scripture shows us Paul suggesting women should not teach or have authority. You have all the known authors being male. You have to confront these things.

You are clearly not understanding Wright in context.

You've said things like this over and over. So far I've had to correct you coming on two dozen times when you haven't understood my points at all on pretty basic stuff. Your facts have been way off, the rabbi example being a good one and the confusion between gnostic gospels and gnosticising Judaism being another So frankly your credibility regarding my mentality deficiencies is shot. Sorry.

Ok, show me wrong. Have you read Wright? What is the context? Did you read the book? Are you saying you understand the context even though you haven't read the context?

You use Wright when he fits your agenda and then you set him aside when he refutes you.

I've been using Wright mainly because you brought him up. In general evangelicals listen to him because "he's one of us".

No you used Wright prior to us even discussing this issue in the post.

So here is my position on Wright. Wright pretty much repackages E.P. Sanders.

Wow. Haven't-read-Wright-alert....Wright spends significant time refuting EP Sanders in Jesus and the Victory of God. He disagrees with Sanders regularly. They both roughly follow the idea that the Pharisees were not primarily legalists (against traditional lutheran thought) but short of that there are not a lot of similarities.

I think Wright is very creative. I also happen to agree with his critique on Crossen and the inherent conflicts in Crossen's model. I think both Sanders and Wright make some pretty huge leaps in assuming the evolution of Christianity, I side with Turner, Wells, etc... who Wright doesn't address. That being said most facts in Wright's book are correct.

I am confused. Did you read his book? Which one?

So I agree with his facts and his minor conclusions even though I consider his major conclusions way off base. That being said I feel free to indicate where Wright is disagreeing with you and agreeing with me; particularly when you are citing him to refute me and prove that I am stupid, prideful and dishonest based on the fact that I don't understand Wright. I'm very familiar with Wright through Sanders whom I read in the early 90s.

You read Sanders but not Wright right? Try reading Wright. I have read both and Wright is a much more interesting writer and makes a better case in my humble opinion.

Mike said...

Will:

I think you are spinning your wheels. He's not going to listen to you. Besides, there is no one here to moderate this little debate accept for the two of you. You are just going to go around in circles forever and ever until one of you decides it is not worth arguing about anymore. It is important to communicate the truth, but you also need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work (John 16:8). As I said before, you will probably be more effective for God elsewhere.

Will said...

Mike, thanks but I am actually not minding the discussion. CD seems upset but since I have most of this stuff in my head and I type fast it has not been a time consuming discussion.

CD, one other thing. I do not contend that gnosticism was present in some diaspora Jewish communities even as far back as 100 BCE ('Before Christ's Empire') but remember that Christianity has its origins in Palestine not diaspora (all the Biblical accounts are of Jesus within Israel and this means that the norm for the Christian world as it spread would have been for there to be a similar episcopal structure to what we see in the New Testament. Remember that the gospels show a Sanhedren (a council of elders) and at various times Paul and Peter suggest an elder structure. If these Palestinian Jews were the one's to spread the gospel, why would we assume that the receiving communities would take another episcopal structure?