Thursday, September 27, 2012

Another "Fake" Or Just a Problem of Method: What Francis Watson's Analysis Does to Papyrus Köln 255?

James F. McGrath has kindly offered to host a small contribution of mine to the current debate on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife on his blog Exploring the Matrix.

Another "Fake" Or Just a Problem of Method: What Francis Watson's Analysis Does to Papyrus Köln 255? By Timo S. Paananen. Published in September 27, 2012. Direct link to pdf

Comments are best left underneath James McGrath's blog post.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Forging the Gospel of Jesus' Wife

The internet has been buzzing over the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. For collections of links on the topic, consult James F. McGrath's three posts on the subject for more opinions than you can read in an hour.

If you have time for only one link, check out the official research project page from Harvard Divinity School.

Just now Francis Watson, known for the readership of this blog through his article "Beyond Suspicion: On the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark" (The Journal of Theological Studies 61 128-170), has claimed the new Gospel fragment a fake.

Posted on Mark Goodacre's NT Blog (in two parts) is Watson's short analysis titled The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a Fake Gospel-Fragment was Composed. His verdict:

The Jesus of the Secret Gospel [of Mark] likes to consort naked with young men at night, while seeming hostile to women. By contrast, the new gospel fragment has Jesus speak disconcertingly of "my wife". Has this new heterosexual Jesus been created to complement Smith's homosexual one?

Watson's technique in unearthing the text as fake is to find ancient parallels to the words and sentences; in the case of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, these are discovered mostly from the coptic Gospel of Thomas. My own problem with this method is that it looks to be too good for its own good: given the vast amount of ancient texts we have at our disposal (even though they may represent only 10% of all the ancient literature that once existed) any given piece of text could be argued to be "fake" if all it took was to come up with parallels from other ancient texts. I think the real problem is the question of provenance. If the Gospel of Jesus' Wife could be traced somewhere, preferably to an authorized archaeological dig, Watson's analysis would still stand, but his conclusions would end up different.

(Oh right, the youth in the Mystic Gospel of Mark is not naked, there is only one of them present, and Jesus' "hostility towards women" is not apparent in that text either. And Smith's Jesus was not a homosexual.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

RBB12: Helmut Koester's Introduction to the New Testament, Volume Two: History and Literature of Early Christianity

It is interesting to note that the second volume of Helmut Koester's Introduction to the New Testament is neither an "introduction" nor "history and literature of early Christianity" (despite the subtitle).

I would not have picked up the first if Robert Mahoney had not explained it in his 1985 review of Koester's two volumes: "As the German reader knows from the first word of the original title ... the author of an Einführung has a relatively free hand in his choice of particular subjects and in his manner of presentation" (p. 538 of Mahoney's review published in The Journal of Religion 65); this consideration pertains to the first volume, as well. As for the subtitle of the second volume, Koester explicates in his preface that he is, in fact, writing a rather comprehensive "history of the early Christian churches" (xxi).

There is no need for me to dwell in the qualities of Koester's work. When even someone who pretty much disagrees with Koester all the way to the end considers it "impressive" and states that "I wish my admiration to be clear" (p. 693 of Raymond E. Brown's review published in Theological Studies 44), there are no superlatives for me to add. The main theme of Koester's reading of his sources comes out clear. I am very much of the same mind with his conclusions that "The diversity of Christian beginnings is evident in the sources" (93), and that the earliest Christianity was "a phenomenon that utterly lacked unity" (102).

Some of the things I learned to appreciate anew includes that one impossible endeavour that is also known as New Testament textual criticism. A hypothetical stemma (a listing of dependencies between extant manuscripts) would be "absurdly complex" (19), and the living textual tradition (additions from oral traditions; changes for doctrinal reasons) with all the major early witnesses coming from a specific geographic location (Egypt), makes me wonder how anyone could have brought any sense to the proceedings in the form of manuscript families in the first place. Not that the concept of manuscript families feels too trustful. Koester has some concerns over certain manuscripts, such as Codex Freerianus/Washingtonianus (W=032), which is "such a "mixture" of all known text types (Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine) that it calls into question all theories about the value and antiquity of these families" (28). Indeed, this theory of textual families seems too good for its own good, in a way that any given piece of evidence either fits into the families or, if not, is made to fit into the theory anyway by giving it the designation of "mixed type".

Certain details could be enhanced here and there. The discussion on methodology feels incomplete in the year 2012, as the traditional methods are supplemented only by narrative and rhetorical criticism which are both viewed as "extensions or supplements to redaction and composition criticism" (70), though the fact that they are used also for non-historicist readings is at least acknowledged. Furthermore, Koester is very keen on form criticism and before halfway through this second volume it comes to the forefront (alternatively, it took me this far to become bothered by it) giving the impression that every literary work could and should always be dismantled into earlier literary works/oral traditions which have acted as its sources; the only explicit mention of a literary work not to be dissected in this manner is the Revelation of John (257).

To roll with these minor points, it also happens that the criteria for concluding this or that is left buried in the bibliographies. One example of this tendency is Koester's discussion on the historical Jesus. Though he writes fiercely against the "criterion of embarrassment" (79, 85), his criteria for judging the traditional material this way or that remains hidden otherwise. It is a well-known fact that a large number of scholars have provided a host of different pictures of the historical Jesus both before and after Koester, and his "realized eschatology" interpretation of Jesus' messageto take but one examplecould (and has been) done differently by ascribing the here-and-now parts to later additions to the tradition, for instance. Additionally, Koester notes in his discussion on Luke's treatise that the author, compared to other acts of the various apostles, "refrained from introducing baptized lions and talking dogs" into his composition (331). While that statement is correct, it seems to forget Luke's own oddities—such as the "handkerchiefs and aprons" of Paul (19.12) and the shadow of Peter (5.15) through which the healing magic of these early Christians was transferred—and points, to my mind, to the phenomenon of treating the familiar things as "natural" while the non-familiar things can still grasp the attention (and why are the talking animals from the Jewish Scriptures omitted here?).

But let the minor disagreements be minor. Koester's important work suffers from one huge issue that plagues practically every other history of the earliest Christianity I have read. This issue concerns categories and the discrepancy between stated objectives and achieved results. Here is the short of it: in his preface Koester states explicitly that he intends to write "the history of the early Christian churches" in which he does not honour the traditional canonical boundaries but considers all the known sources from the relevant time period (xxi). But when one turns the page and begins to read the body of work—literally on page one—there is the following sentence: "During the first two centuries, the only Holy Scripture that Christians accepted was the Bible of Israel" (1). This statement is all fine and good, except for those Christians of the first two centuries who did not accept the Bible of Israel as their Holy Scripture. Who were these Christians? They were the likes of Marcion and Valentinus who developed and pushed their theology out of the canon boundaries of their day, much like Koester wants to do with his historical reconstruction. The modern-day academics, however, have a seemingly harder time to break free of their mold.  Time and time again the old paradigm of orthodoxy vs heresy,  and canonized vs non-canonized, is reinforced (almost unconsciously), as evidenced in Koester's discussion of the Jewish models for the development of Gnostic ideas, called "heretical Judaism" (216), and in his description of the so-called "Naassene Sermon" preserved by Hippolytus as "superficially Christianized" (237), when he seems to only mean that it is "not congruent with proto-orthodoxy" i.e. not the right kind of Christian by the standards of that variant that came to be in the dominant position.

The study of Christian origins has, for the longest time, been influenced by the framework set down in the writings of the church fathers such as Irenaeus. This framework has come into being in the middle of a conflict, and has its focus on drawing a firm boundary between "us" and "them", the standard human response in the face of adversary. One feature of this forced division is the formation of authorized literary works (canon) and their correct interpretation. While in itself the reading of historical sources according to this mindset is certainly possible, the trouble with it, up to the present day, has been the unconscious adoption and domination of this one particular framework over all of the others.

The core of the problem is the language. If one—like Koester—wishes to step outside of this traditional framework and write history from some other viewpoint, one cannot retain the language of the older paradigm. Koester knows in his first volume that a new framework of thought (a new language), exemplified in the production and reception of the Septuagint, opens up new avenues for the intellect to pursue. Thomas Kuhn, in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), holds one of the hallmarks of the change to be the incommensurability of vocabulary i.e. nothing new comes out of the old vocabulary, for the old vocabulary itself guides the thought processes along the lines of the traditional wisdom. While "Christians" is already used by Luke as a designator, the term has gathered much too much historical baggage with it over the centuries. First of all, it is a designator that is still relevant for the majority of scholars today (and whether they are antagonistic or its opposite is equally bad). While a twentieth-century trend of changing "early Christianity" to "early Christianities" (and "Judaism" to "Judaisms") is a step towards breaking the old paradigm, it still falls short: Koester has no trouble talking of diversity in early Christianity on an abstract level, but Marcion and Valentinus still manage to slip past when the discussion turns to "Christians".

I do not, however, have a grand idea for breaking the mold by a new vocabulary. One (maybe the only one) virtue of the historian is consistency, the ability to apply the same criteria consistently across the sources. Another trick of the trade is to distance oneself from the phenomenon under scrutiny by the conscious choice of vocabulary. For these two considerations, I have been turning around the term "cult of Christ" in my head. Not only does it enable me to locate this religious movement among the other Eastern deities that made their westward journey over the centuries, but it also has less connotations than "Christianity", and there is no conscious effort from my part to describe Paul, Marcion, and Irenaeus as members of the cult of Christ, and no problems for dealing with the changing face of this cult any more than with the diversity we find in the beliefs and practices of the cult of Dionysius. (It should be noted here that my usage of the "cult of Christ" is a different discussion than what W. Bousset, and recently Larry Hurtado and others, have conducted, and I do not imply, by considering this term, that Christian origins had a unanimous cultic devotion of "the Lord" going on. But I cannot come up with a more fitting term at the moment.)


A Few Notes on Helmut Koester's Introduction to the New Testament, Volume Two: History and Literature of Early Christianity (Walter de Gruyter, 2000)


In the preface for this volume (the preface to the first edition) Koester lays down some axioms by which he goes through "the history and literature of early Christianity" (the subtitle of the volume). These include the notion that Koester is writing "the history of the early Christian churches" instead of a mere "introduction" or even "history of early Christian literature" (despite the subtitle); that Koester does not stop at the canonical boundaries but considers all the known sources from the relevant time period; and that this history was a "complex process, full of controversies" between the emerging communities of the cult of Christ (xxi).

Chapter VII

The basic building blocks of early Christian literature were the Jewish Bible ("Scripture" in the mouths of some of the early Christians, though others disagreed) and the developing oral tradition largely centred on Jesus (1-2). Letters of Paul (from the 50s) provided a novel form later Christian writers could utilize (3), while other types of writings included "gospels", acts, theological treatises, and a few undertakings to document the life of the early churches (4-6). Koester considers also the question of authority: from the beginning "the Lord" (or appearances of the risen Christ) guaranteed the authority of any given preaching, as "one could primarily rely on "what the Lord had said," or one would ask prophets what "the Lord" had revealed to them ... authorization could simply be derived from the possession of the Holy Spirit" (6). Later on, various apostles were taken as authority figures to guarantee the contents of literate works by all sorts of Christians. Marcion trusted Paul and Luke (once they were edited out of what Marcion thought as later pro-Jewish insertions) (6-10).

Furthermore, Koester gives Irenaeus a prominent place in the formation of the canon as he, in contrast to Marcion, accepted many more books into his canon. The concepts of apostolicity and inspiration were not important (everybody claimed their works to be apostolic and inspired, anyway) but Irenaeus' canon seems to have incorporated works with divergent doctrinal concepts within them (10-11). Koester makes two important observations here: that Irenaeus' canon was accepted (or rather, was already in use or at least did not conflict with the existing user base) in Asia Minor, Greece, Syria, Africa, Egypt, and later in Rome, established a political advantage following the victory of Irenaeus' canon, as a "network of bishops ... had been able to establish common practices for baptism (including the instruction of catechumens) and the celebration of the Eucharist, moral and ritual codes, and a number of social institutions and avenues for mutual support" (11). In other words, Irenaeus' canon was rather a tying-up of existing social networks among some of the early Christians rather than a rigorous application of certain premises ("apostolicity, doctrinally sound") with which every candidate literary work was judged.

Koester's solution (which I have sharpened somewhat in my paraphrasing here) makes it possible to understand the process of canon formation from two further perspectives: that there never was a canonical body of Christian writings and that the real meat of the question is not what books were included but how were the books included interpreted; there does not exist a Christian canon at the moment (I can recall five different collections of books from the top of my head: Catholic, Protestant, two Orthodox, and Ethiopian) nor does there exist any ancient codices or book lists which would not either miss some of the works in the Protestant Bible or include works that do not belong to the Protestant Bible (something Koester does not point out but is evident in his discussion of said sources later in the chapter). Besides, as Koester discusses later on (266-275), everybody used Pauline writings, but read them differently.

Another major point in the first chapter is the discussion of text criticism. Koester begins by noting that the problems are the same with all the ancient books. Some of the harder questions to answer (or control rigorously) are the insertions from still-living oral tradition (such as the story of "Jesus and the woman caught in adultery") and insertions due to dogmatic differences between the copyist and her source (17-18), and the lack of really old manuscripts (even when some of these are available, they all come from Egypt) (20-21). Though standard practice is to produce a stemma or the listing of the dependencies between extant manuscripts, the body of manuscripts of (mainly) New Testament writings is so vast as to make a hypothetical stemma "absurdly complex" (19); instead, New Testament textual critics aim to establish manuscript families (Western, Alexandrian, Caesarean, Byzantine) to make sense of the mess.

Koester is ultimately reticient of this practice, noting that "Its [Codex Freerianus/Washingtonianus; W=032] readings are such a "mixture" of all known text types (Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine) that it calls into question all theories about the value and antiquity of these families" (28) and that "the archetypes of the later manuscript families were not created until the 4th century" (42). The most difficult question is the tracing of the text through I, II, and III CE where the evidence is scarce. Western text type is Koester's candidate for serious re-evaluation as all the major critical editions of the New Testament (including the current Nestle-Aland) have failed to give this text type the consideration Koester believes it deserves (40-42). After all of this it is rather surprising that Koester concludes that "a very small portion of the New Testament text is subject to doubt" (44).

Following descriptions of all the important ancient witnesses to the New Testament (22-36) Koester goes through various problems of source criticism, including the "Synoptic Problem" (preferring "two-source-hypothesis" with independent collections of Jesus' sayings, miracles, and passion at the bottom of it all), the sources for the Acts of the Apostles, and the difficulties with Paul's letters to the Romans, 2 Corinthians, and Philippians (having been composed originally as a multitude of smaller letters) (44-59). A rather long description of form criticism (59-65) and the finding of early traditions from the early Christian writings (65-70) is only at this second edition supplemented with a brief take on narrative and rhetorical criticism (in which both are viewed as "extensions or supplements to redaction and composition criticism" (70) though the fact that they are used also for non-historicist readings is at least acknowledged (70-74).

Chapter VIII

Koester begins this chapter on John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth by noting that "It is not possible to give a succinct historical account of the life and ministry of either" (75), for all our traditions of them have been preserved by the early Christianities. Such scepticism is repeated time and time again. Koester places the self-consciousness of Jesus "beyond the reach of historical inquiry" (82) and even calls the quest for the original words of Jesus "fundamentally misguided" (79). One way out of this deadlock is to shift the focus from the history of factional persons to the history of memories of various communities i.e. what our historical reconstruction is actually about is the memory of the earliest Christians concerning these two figures of legendary stature. This characterization of Koester's position may be a bit exaggerated since he only states in one paragraph that "Their history has become a memory of the community" (75) and in another that "All that is available for the historian's inquiry are reflections or mirrors of Jesus' preaching and teaching in the tradition that was formulated for the purposes of the early (Greek-speaking) communities" (85), but nevertheless this (well-warranted) scepticism seems to pave way for works such as Anthony Le Donne's Historical Jesus (2011). On the other hand, the fact that Koester first denies to "reconstruct the original words of the historical Jesus" but afterwards builds a fuzzy portrait of the man nevertheless is illustrative of the tendencies that pull historians both ways; yet it is important to keep reminding oneself of the fact that the study of history can only ever be close reading of the sources that have been preserved, and that the number of sources should not be indirectly related to the amount of guesswork a historian brings to the table.

The quest for the historical John the Baptist does not have much sources to go through; he seems to have had an eschatological message of his own related to his baptism (as "eschatological seal" for Koester), and if nothing else can be known, at least he was executed by Herod Antipas. The only plausible reason for Jesus to have been baptized by John is that he was one of John's disciples. Apocalypticism was a major current in Jewish thought at this period and Jesus would have inherited these ideas from John (75-78). For Jesus there are similar "erratic blocks of the tradition" (79) to weed through. On a very general level, positive probability can be assigned to those traditions that Jesus came from the Jewish family residing in Nazareth, spoke Galilean Aramaic and had some education of the Jewish scriptures. He joined the Baptist movement but parted ways with it later and had a ministry of his own, until he was arrested and executed in Jerusalem (78-82). While the Gospels want to portray Jesus with philosophical, magical, and visionary aspirations, Koester considers his message to fit best into "outmoded and archaic genres of prophetic speech and wisdom teaching" (83). In this way Jesus becomes part of a trajectory from John the Baptist to the early Christians (85).

That between these two examples of apocalyptic expectations Koester's Jesus is portrayed as preaching "realized eschatology"—that Jesus' followers are already invited to participate (common meals) in the kingdom of God even though it is at the same time only anticipated—is, however, harder to maintain (84-87). One problem of Koester's portrayal here is that its methodology is not clearly spelt out. Koester writes fiercely against the "criterion of embarrassment" (79, 85) but otherwise his criteria for judging the material this way or that remains buried somewhere in his bibliography.

Whatever we make of John and Jesus, their legacy saw from the start a number of disparate developments. Koester states this plainly: "The diversity of Christian beginnings is evident in the sources, and it must have had its origin in diverse responses to the event of the death of Jesus and to documentation that this crucified Jesus was now alive again." (93) For one example, distinct practises in the liturgy of the Eucharist can be found at least in three places, the tradition that Paul received and repeated in 1 Cor 11, the accounts preserved in the synoptic Gospels, and the eucharistic prayers of the Didache (95-96). For another, one could consider the disinterest in the death of Jesus in Q and the Gospel of Thomas, and the opposite exhibited in Paul's letters (101-102). The most important divergence was the question of the Jewish law: whether non-Jewish members of the ekklesia should be circumcised and practice the dietary dictates of the Jewish scriptures, and such examples compel us to conclude that the earliest Christianity was "a phenomenon that utterly lacked unity" (102).

Chapter IX

Paul, having had a vision of the risen Christ, had a rather striking career as a missionary first in "Arabia" (around Damascus and east of Jordan), then Syria and Cilicia followed by the so-called "Apostolic Council" in Jerusalem (Koester dates this in 48 CE), the Antioch Incident and Paul's departure, and his subsequent efforts to found new congregations "in the most important urban centers of commerce and industry" (115) in Greece and Asia Minor, ending up imprisoned in Ephesia before travelling to Jerusalem with the Collection he had prepared for the "poor" (i.e. the Jewish-Christian community headed by Jacob), once again arrested and finally shipped to Rome (though Acts of the Apostles is the only source for the events after Paul's prison time in Ephesia; Koester discards most of the information in the Acts of the Apostles as far too legendary).

As Koester notes, "Paul's letters reveal an ambitious, well-planned, large-scale organization that included the use of letters as an instrument of ecclesiastical policy" (118). This organization utilized a number of co-workers (such as Timothy and Titus) both Jewish and Gentile to achieve the effect (141). One example of the policing is found in Romans 16 which seems to have been originally sent to the Ephesians, and in which Paul manages to answer certain questions of organization while passing out greetings all around (143). Another interesting feature of Paul was his curious need to be in good spirits with the (Jewish-Christian) congregation in Jerusalem, first illustrated in the endeavours of the Apostolic Council (even if that agreement was largely broken by the incident in Antioch soon after, which put Paul on the move and probably made his views on the Jewish law more radical; 111-114), and then in the Collection for the Jerusalem community Paul tried to deliver in the late 50s (146-148). For hundreds of years the Hellenistic states had looked towards Greece as the symbol of their origins, even if at the same time they had a need for the manpower the Greek immigrants could provide. Paul, looking towards Jerusalem, must have felt the same. Finally, Koester makes a number of interesting readings of the divergent interpretations that Paul and those Christians who opposed him had for the Jewish scriptures (in practice, the Septuagint). [page 124]

Chapter X

Koester argues that Jesus' prophetic announcements concerning the coming rule of God were transformed by the earliest communities to point to Jesus himself (as someone coming back in the future), while itinerant prophets continued to pronounce similar statements using Jesus' authority; additionally, many new sayings came to be in order to provide rules for the emergent communities (151). The Synoptic Sayings Gospel (Q) is one example of the various early trajectories: indifferent about Jesus' death and resurrection, without christological titles (in its earliest layer), and "dominated by the consciousness of an eschatological community committed to a new conduct as demanded by Jesus in the light of the rule of God, whose coming Jesus had announced" (152) (of course, Koester need to put all the Son of Man sayings (which derive from Jewish apocalypticism of the times) into the later layers of composition of Q) (151-154). For another example, there is evidence that Jesus' parables were collected together "as words that reveal saving wisdom" (154).

The Gospel of Thomas exemplifies another trajectory: similar to Q it has no interest in Jesus' death, but while an early composition (first around 50 CE in Koester's assessment) this work has transformed eschatological Jesus into a teacher of wisdom who, in fact, speaks "in the voice of heavenly Wisdom" in logions 23, 28, and 90 (154-158). Another early (I CE!) document for Koester is the Dialogue of the Savior which elaborates traditional sayings and builds a whole new genre (revelation dialogue/discourse) by adding interpretations, questions, etc around the words of Jesus. This trajectory views Jesus as a wisdom teacher who instructs his disciples to become his equals and understand their true (divine) origin and ultimate destiny (158-161). Other early works describe law-abiding Jewish-Christianity in Greek-speaking communities under the authorship of presbyters (The Epistle of James); yet another means of organization is described in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Didache) (161-165).

Authority positions were given for many of the apostles, and Koester notes that "some time after the death of these apostles various Christian traditions were competing with each other under the authority of apostolic names" (166). Of the early Christian authority figures Peter has a prominent place, as he was remembered as one of the first (if not the first) witness of the risen Christ. It might be no coincidence, then, that one of the early witnesses for a full-blown passion narrative, the Gospel of Peter, went under this apostles' name, though other "Petrine" writings existed as well (166-169). As it happens, Koester's Gospel of Mark, stemming from the Syro-Palestinian realm, was written "primarily on the basis of written materials" (172), and created a new type of "biography" (or rather, "a passion narrative with a biographical introduction"; 173) following the Jewish examples of "the biography of the prophet" (Jeremiah and the suffering servant in Isaiah 40-56) (169-175). While "Mark" wanted to "unify conflicting traditions of a divided Syrian Christianity" (176), the author of the Gospel of Matthew aimed, by combining the Gospel of Mark and Q as well as his own special material, to make even more universal (or ecumenical) composition by presenting Jesus' ministry as focused on teaching rather than Markan miracle workings (176-182).

Getting back to the various trajectories discussed above (noting that Koester locates all the different Christianities in this chapter 10 in Syria or thereabouts), a very distinct variation is the Johannine tradition, born from a different process of treating the oral traditions on Jesus as basis for discourses similar to the aforementioned Dialogue of the Savior. In other words, Koester finds clear parallels for most of the Johannine dialogues from the simpler sayings material as it was preserved e.g. in the writings of Justin Martyr and Ignatius of Antioch, and in the Gospel of Thomas. Additionally, the close parallels between Johannine and certain "Gnostic" traditions indicates that the former was composed in direct discourse with the latter. Surprisingly in this light is the working of the passion narrative into the Gospel of John, one that follows very closely its synoptic counterparts (182-190). These and other instances of redaction Koester sees in the Gospel of John (adding of Jh 21; interpolations in 5.28-29, 6.39b, 40b, 44b, and elsewhere) makes him decide that this I CE writing with many "special traditions" of its own, deeply influenced by Jewish wisdom speculations and the dialogue with Gnostic tendencies while reworking eschatological expectations into "realized eschatology" ("demythologizing traditional eschatology" in Koester's parlance; 197), was early-on made to fit better with the mainstream theology of Syrian Christianity (though Koester also speculates whether the Gospel of John was, in fact, never finished but was canonized in a sort of draft form; 193) (190-199). 1 John, at least, indicates that such unifying tendencies where not unknown in the Johannine circles (199-201), though the other side was as much open, and the authority of John was paraded in more Gnostic writings such as the Acts of John and the Apocryphon of John; Egypt, in particular, adopted John very early (202-204).

Koester begins his treatment of "Jewish Christianity" by considering the term itself: Jesus was a Jew as were all his disciples and (at least most of the) apostles, and they had the Jewish scriptures at their disposal which "provided the matrix, the categories, and the reference points for the understanding of the message from and about Jesus" (205). He concludes that the term "Jewish Christianity" should be understood as an extremely narrow one, referring only to those congregations that upheld the Mosaic law (circumcision, purity and dietary laws) (204-205). While it is difficult to map out the development of Jewish Christianity in this narrow sense, Koester decides that there was no direct connection between the Jerusalem Church (which left the city before the Jewish War) and the other congregations that used the Jewish-Christian Gospels such as the Gospel of the Nazoreans and the Gospel of the Ebionites; instead, they were formed on the basis of the continuing battle between the various Christianities, as illustrated by Paul's fight with the "Judaizers" in e.g. his letter to the Galatians. Syria hosted Jewish-Christians up until the early Byzantine period (205-210).

For the end of chapter 10, Koester summarizes the earlier discussion. He notes that the term "Gnosticism" he has used so far has only referred to "a particular phenomenon that is characterized by the discovery of the divine self in the individual and, at the same time, a radical rejection not only of the "world" in all its physical realities, but also of the body, the social fabric of society, and of all its institutionsregardless of the presence or absence of any elaborate Gnostic mythology." (213) But this description is not indicative of any one movement on its own, but rather present in such tendencies as "the spiritualizing of realized eschatology" and "the lack of interest in building viable community structures" (213) whether they (by later ecclesiastical standards) fell within the "orthodoxy" or without; or, in other words, "Gnosticism is a hermeneutic principle in the process of interpretation" (214). While this decision still makes it rather unclear why certain encratite writings would be deemed "Gnostic" but Paul's encratite tendencies would be not, or why Koester puts writings like the Prologue of John's Gospel and the Hymn of the Dance found in the Acts of John under the heading "Gnostic Hymns and Songs" while at the same time noting that they neither have a Gnostic origin nor "reveal the influence of Gnostic terms and imagery" (220), Koester nevertheless thinks the roots of this line of thought could be found in Jewish speculations (actually, Koester calls it "heretical Judaism"; 216). The reasons for this currently outmoded notion are the non-Christian treatises from Nag Hammadi, such as the Apocalypse of Adam (216-220).

Chapter XI

Egypt is a short chapter for there is no direct evidence of the beginning of Christianity in there. Koester emphasizes the contrast between the city of Alexandria and the rest of Egypt; the first was a major centre of culture and economy while the latter did not speak Greek or have access to Greek education. From this contrast Koester concludes that all the sources of later Egyptian Christianity had to have been developed in contact with Alexandria, and thus are useful for reconstructing the history of Alexandrian Christianities. Much of the church fathers' writings are of no value, but the first known bishop of Alexandria was Demetrius (189 CE). The conceptual framework for dealing with Egypt is borrowed from Walter Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (1934)a book that I would personally cite as one of the most influential for my current understanding of Christian origins, despite its ageand that verdict holds that Christianities in Egypt were of those variants that were later deemed "heretical"; thus the scarce information both in the lack of primary sources and in the lack of reliable information from later Christian writers (225-228).

Koester finds evidence of at least five different Christianities having found their way to Egypt during I CE. Syrian influence is present in the Egyptian favoured Gospels of Thomas and John (both of whom Koester locates to have originated from Syria), and in the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Apocryphon of James likely used by Egyptian Jewish-Christians. Furthermore, there was an "independent Egyptian formations of Gnostic theology that reveal no specifically Christian influence" (in other words, contrary to Syria in which Koester sees Jewish Gnostic ideas forming the background for Christian Gnostic ideas, in Egypt this background was composed of Pagan Gnostic ideas (231) though imported Syrian Gnostic ideas and Jewish-Gnostic ideas were likely to play a role as well) found in such works as the Corpus Hermeticum, Eugnostos the Blessed, and the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit. The fourth distinct Christianity was the "vernacular Gnostic Christianity" that trasmitted Jesus' sayings (the Gospel of the Egyptians) but lacked much of the cosmological speculation that characterized the fifth variant of Gnostic schools (based on the model of philosophical schools discussed in volume one) of the Naassenes (Ophites), the Carpocratians, and the schools of Basilides and Valentinus (228-240).

"Vernacular catholicism" is evident to have an Egyptian presence by the middle of II CE (2 Clement) while the Epistula Apostolorum provides a surprising twist for the battle of Christianities: it is an anti-Gnostic revelation discourse that challenges systematically all the Gnostic notions while claiming the authority of all the eleven apostles (while splitting Peter and Cephas into two persons). As mentioned above, the proto-orthodox establishment reaches Egypt by the end of II CE; yet Koester notes that "orthodoxy and heresy continued to exist side by side in Egypt for centuries" (245) (240-245).

Chapter XII

The very final chapter of this Introduction traces the development of proto-orthodox cult of Christ ("early catholicism" in Koester's parlance; 275) in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece (and Rome and Antioch). This variant of Christianity was a truly urban movement and its members (generally speaking) had access to relative wealth, relative education, and freedom and opportunities to travel and settle elsewhere. After the death of Paul (he certainly didn't survive the 60s) these communities faced "the renewal of apocalyptic expectations" (248); as illustrated by 2 Thessalonians (non-Pauline letter) eschatological ideas are maintained but they are not anymore "radical" (with radical conclusions for Christian ethics) but "doctrines about future events" which do not hinder "obedient and responsible living in this world" whilst waiting for the end. The Epistle of Jude shows how this renewal of apocalyptic ideas could be used to oppose "Gnosticism", and Koester labels the apocalyptic motive responsible for the beginning of the widening divide between different Christianities (247-253).

The Revelation of John fits into this trajectory so far as it views the clash between the cult of Christ and the cult of the Emperor as the beginning of the end times. Koester's reading the Revelations, however, holds this book to be different from your standard "apocalyptic propaganda" (253) as it does not divulge any sort of "secret knowledge" (261) to the reader: up to the present the world has been under the rule of Christ and the final confrontation between Christ and Rome is about to begin, and the Christian community on the whole is invited to take part with the numerous hymns and songs which the author has included in his composition (253-262). (Of all the readings of early Christian books in Koester's Introduction this is the one I am left most puzzled with.) A different kind of apocalypticism is presented in the Shepherd of Hermas (written about the same time as the Revelations), which calls its readers for individual repentance instead of John's focus on communities (262-266).

Apart from renewed apocalypticism of the Pauline churches following the Apostle's death (the problems which his death created are dealt e.g. in the Epistle to the Colossians as it explains how Paul's suffering has supplemented that of Christ's (1.24) and now the Christians have died and raised with Christ (in baptism), no problem if the parousia is delayed; 266-271), another move towards the future power position was the strengthening of the universal understanding of Christian religion. The Epistle to the Ephesians provides a rather traditional morality for the Christian communities in this regard, but at the same time opens a door for a Gnostic interpretation of Paul as it interprets the death and resurrection of Christ as a "mystery", makes Christians (like Colossians) participants to the death and resurrection in baptism, and transforms the old parousia ideas into an individual salvation after (natural) death (266-275). An illustrative example of such "Gnostic" speculations is embedded into the Epistle to the Hebrews in its wish to offer deep insight into the Jewish Bible for the "perfect" (much like Philo did) who are on their way back to the heavens, though Hebrews distances itself from other Gnostic ideas (275-280). The Epistle of Barnabas is even more explicit: it wishes to communicate gnosis (1.5) or "deeper understanding of Scripture" (281), such as interpreting the 318 servants whom Abraham circumcised to be a reference to the cross, as that number in Greek letters (IHT) has two letters of Jesus' name (IHSOUS) and that final T symbolizes the cross; Barnabas' "gnosis", naturally, is synonymous to "true faith" and Koester does not hesitate to call the letter of Barnabas "anti-Gnostic" (282) (280-282).

The generation of Christians following the generation of Paul is completely nameless. The generation following that generation has John (the author of the Apocalypse), Clement (of Rome), Ignatius (of Antioch), Polycarp, and Dionysius (Corinthian bishop who wrote letters ca. 150 CE); in Egypt the first known Christians were Basilides and Valentinus, in Syria Tatian and Bar Deisan (Bardesanes) from II CE. Koester names "the desire of churches or individuals to exercise ecclesiastical-political influence in their own right" for one of the reasons for these names to have appeared at the time they did (283). Another factor was the compilation of Pauline letters into a collection that must have happened already during the late I CE.

Ignatius is a prominent example of the reception of Paul and further development of Pauline ideas. Koester sees him to be quite close to the Ephesians in his theology, while Ignatius' eschatology is "reduced to the concept of martyrdom" (which also gave him the chutzpah to instruct other communities than his own in his letters; 286; 290). One of the most influential innovations of his was the concept of "monarchic episcopate", one congregation under one bishop acting like the monarchs of old, accepted everywhere as the organizational model by the end of II CE (282-291). Other models, like the plurality of bishops talked about in the parenetic instruction of 1 Clement, were discarded (291-295).

One of the better ideas of the proto-orthodox cult of Christ ("early catholic church" in Koester's parlance) was the combining of Peter and Paul into two apostles of the same mind. This not only allowed alliances between communities that had attached themselves to either name (Paul in Asia Minor, Peter in Syria in which anti-Pauline traditions were current up until the early II CE), but also paved way for the acceptance of "Petrine" writings (Gospel of Matthew, for instance) in the west (293-294). Such development is illustrated in the First Epistle of Peter (early II CE), which is Petrine only as far as its title goes, having transferred the language of Israel (in the Jewish scriptures) to pertain to the church in a very straightforward manner (295-298). The Second Epistle of Peter is even more explicit: it mentions Paul by name and laments the difficulties in making sense of his letters. Koester puts it like this: "While the letters of Paul were still quoted and used without hesitation around the year 100, a generation later the author of 2 Peter belonged to those orthodox Christians who named Paul as an authority of the church, but secretly wished that the great apostle had not written any letters" (300) (298-300).

No wonder, then, that by the middle of II CE the so-called Pastoral Epistles utilized Paul's name in organizing the Christian communities into "stable" and "well-established" societies, getting rid of the radical eschatological ethics in favour of conservative "good-citizens'" morality much like Polycarp did in his writings; Koester even holds it plausible that Polycarp could be the unknown author of the Pastoral Epistles (300-310). Such settling down made way for the fully-formed apologetic writings of II CE; such tendencies were already present in the treatise of Luke (traditionally called the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles), for which Koester loans Marianne P. Bonz's thesis: Luke's work was intended to be the epic foundation story of unified Christianity much like Virgil's Aeneid was the epic foundation story of the Romans. The apologetic motive is plainly seen, as Luke's Christianity is "a religion without any elements that could possibly constitute a political problem for Rome" (314) and the early controversies of Peter and Paul (and many others) are downplayed and transferred outside of the Christian community (the Jews especially are portrayed as people seeking to stir controversy among the Christians) (310-327). Such apologetics is largely missing from the other Acta (e.g. the Acts of Peter, and the Acts of Paul) which present their heroes (the apostles) as wandering miracle workers; Koester notes that Luke, at least, "refrained from introducing baptized lions and talking dogs" into his composition (331) (327-331). Marcion presented yet another different interpretation of Paul giving incentive for the proto-orthodox to formulate a canon of their own in competition with Marcion's church (331-336).

The proper apologetics of II CE was born out of necessity. As the letter of the younger Pliny illustrates, Romans viewed the nascent Christianity as a "false religion" (superstitio) and were troubled by its status as a private religious association that held nocturnal meetings and refused to submit to the rule of the emperor by sacrificing to his genius. This was no piety as the Romans understood it, and Koester notes that when given the opportunity to repent from "atheism" (as the Christians were accused of) "a stubborn insistence upon the confession of Christ" was "in itself punishable" (340) (336-340). Against this deadlock situation the Christian apologists wanted to establish that their religion was, in fact, a philosophy (concerning the conduct of one's life) steeped in venerable ancient traditions that was superior to other philosophies (not to mention other cults and religions). Justin Martyr, for instance, argued that Moses had been the teacher of Plato, and by this move brought the whole of Greek tradition into his understanding of "God's saving history"; Jesus was "the true teacher of right philosophy" and all the similarities between Christianity and other cults were due to demonic parody of the truth (340-347).

Koester ends with a brief discussion of the cult of the martyrs. By the latter half of II CE the economic and social reality in the Roman empire became dire, and Christians were brought from obscurity into the limelight and certain consequences would follow; the discussion, however, does not put the martyrs into any other context ("zeal for martyrdom" that had to reigned by some of the church fathers, for instance) as Koester seems to severely sympathize with the protagonist of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, calling it "still a moving testimony to the early Christian courage in public witness" (348) (347-349).