Seminars

  • Founded
    1959
  • Seminar Number
    451

This seminar focuses on texts from the Mediterranean world of late antiquity, particularly as they relate to Christian origins. While it studies the New Testament, it also considers the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi texts, patristic literature, rabbinic material, and Greco-Roman texts.


Co-Chairs
Professor John Edwards
jedwards1329@sfc.edu

Professor Emma Wasserman
wasserme@religion.rutgers.edu

Rapporteur
Jermaine Ross-Allam
ajr2229@utsnyc.edu

Meeting Schedule

09/23/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
The Paraclete Problem for Johannine Historiography
Chris Keith, St. Mary's University (England, UK)
Abstract

Abstract

This paper contributes to the longstanding debate about the historical value of the Fourth Gospel. I argue against both those who regard the Fourth Gospel as historically "reliable" and those who regard the Fourth Gospel as historically worthless. In contrast, I forward two specific arguments. First, the Fourth Gospel not only has a historiographical program, but has the most sophisticated historiographical program among our early Jesus books. Second, the role that the narrator ascribes to the Paraclete disrupts the sophistication of that historiographical program in a way that scholars have sometimes failed to appreciate.





10/06/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
‘The Deepest Secret’: A Summary of Paul’s Radical Missional Theology
Douglas Campbell, Duke University
Abstract

Abstract

Over against primarily Greco-Roman resources and Lutheran constructions of salvation, E. P. Sanders posited “participationist eschatology” as the center of Paul’s thinking (repristinating Albert Schweitzer’s thesis), thereby grounding it in Jewish eschatological resources and in a participatory soteriological dynamic. This paper endorses this position, arguing for its validity, then, drawing on a particular Eastern theological hermeneutic, for an explication of its eschatological dimension in terms of relational categories of personhood and communion. This explication generates a flexible structure-relationality distinction, which can then be seen to undergird Paul’s signature issue, namely, his mission to the pagans. Paul included the pagans within the church while leaving most of their own local structures intact, advocating strongly only the practice of a relational ethic of love within, and if necessary against, those structures. It follows that this rationale for inclusion affirmed the original Jewish structures of messianic Jesus followers as well, resulting in a radically inclusive and diversified early church, within which the pagan converts were known initially as "Christians" (Acts 11:26c). Sadly, much subsequent church practice has not continued these dynamics. Nevertheless, in the modern period, Paul’s original instructions can be scrutinized in terms of his central program. And that program, suitably expurgated, as Pauline theology, can continue to guide further ecclesial diversifications and inclusions.





12/09/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
The Council That Might Not Have Been: Archival Rewriting in Fourth-Century Antioch
Emanuel Fiano, Fordham University
Abstract

Abstract

Eduard Schwartz’s 1905 publication of the Syriac version of the synodal letter of the council of Antioch of 324/325 gave rise to a heated dispute, verging on personal insult, between its editor, who claimed its authenticity, and Adolf von Harnack, who contested it. The document, if trustworthy, is historically important in many regards: it apprises us of an otherwise unknown council celebrated only a few short months before the Council of Nicaea; it informs us about the limited propagation of Arius’s doctrines at this stage of the Trinitarian controversies; it confirms the notion, known only from one other document, that the Nicene gathering was originally meant to be summoned at Ancyra; and it explains why at Nicaea Eusebius of Caesarea, condemned at Antioch, had to present a profession of faith. My talk will discuss the authenticity of the document by interrogating its theological contents and above all its transmission in Syriac canonical sources, proposing a hypothesis about the circumstances of its inclusion in the Antiochene corpus canonum.





01/20/2022 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
The Jews Killed Jesus: The Accusation from the New Testament to the Christian Empire
John Edwards, St. Francis College




02/24/2022 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
What Made Circumcision More Attractive than Baptism?: Reconceptualizing the Galatians Debate
Colleen Shantz, University of Toronto (Canada)
Abstract

Abstract

The study of religion typically, and appropriately, focuses foremost on the cultural dynamics of practice and ideation. Concomitantly, religious studies and theology often resist reductive accounts of these phenomena, reductions that are sometimes presented in scientific (including psychological) explanations. In the mainstream of religious studies these two approaches are epistemologically opposed. This presentation explores the area of their overlap to consider how bio-cultural readings offer a fuller sense of human motivations and exegesis. I'll take the debate about initiation in Galatians as a case study to explore how evolved biases about trust and group formation favor a ritual like circumcision over one like baptism.





03/31/2022 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Trial Narratives in Josephus's Antiquities
Chaya Halberstam, King’s University College, University of Western Ontario
Abstract

Abstract

Courtroom stories were a familiar trope in ancient Greek literature, as they provide a ready-made template for scenes in which opposing sides in the dramatic conflict starkly confront each other, and a choice must be made between them. Josephus's sweeping history of the Jews, the Jewish Antiquities, contains many such scenes; while some of the more famous (or infamous) trials have been extensively analyzed, the trial scenes have not yet been studied together as a whole. This talk will argue that Josephus's trial scenes generally function to further the dramatic conflict rather than to resolve it. This has the effect, overall, of presenting a rather hopeless picture of the potential for social/communal justice, even in instances presided over by figures that Josephus sees as virtuous followers of God's will. While one alternative Josephus presents is to wait for divine justice (much like the Gospels/Acts), another alternative emerges which is a kind of provisional, situational, interpersonal decision making; acting based on the facts, feelings, and personalities there in the moment rather than the law.





04/21/2022 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Joseph in Egypt, Hagar in Canaan: Slavery, Linguistic Alienation, and Translation
Jennifer Glancy, Le Moyne College
Abstract

Abstract

Displacement in language is one of the myriad forms of violence associated with slavery, a dimension of dispossession that gets at the core of the self. For those trafficked long distances in antiquity, enslavement entailed separation from the familiar sounds and easy comprehension of a home tongue, alienation from voice as well as community. Sometimes directly and sometimes obliquely, writings from the ancient world admit recognition of the burden of linguistic estrangement in slavery. My presentations begins by considering the peculiar relevance of slavery to that charter narrative of translation, the Letter of Aristeas. Focusing primarily on Philo and Josephus, I then trace the nexus of slavery and linguistic alienation in retellings of stories from Genesis featuring the enslaved Hagar and Joseph.