Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Brown and Meier: Antioch and Rome

I was remembering this morning how significant the little book, Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity was to my understanding of early Christianity.  From a scholarly perspective, it is somewhat of a popular level book, the kind you might have as a secondary text in a college or seminary class.  But it confirmed some very key paradigm shifts I was undergoing, simple yet profound.

Two in particular come to mind:
1. The diversity of the New Testament world.
This book, not actively, not polemically, but just by doing what it does, undermines the popular myth that the early church was this monolithic group that all agreed with each other.  Oh, if we could only get back to the early church, goes the restorationist myth.

It turns out we are already there.  Sure, we have more diversity than they did.  But the early church had groups that we might easily call different denominations today.

2. The fact that "conservative" / "liberal" did not coincide with Jew/Gentile.
There were Jews that were as liberal as any Gentile believer (even more than Apollos or Paul) and there were Gentiles who were so conservative that they became circumcised (i.e., that were more conservative than James).

Maybe at some point these simple paradigm busters will coalesce into a nice list in my mind.  They are simple, obvious, and profound... and contrary to many assumptions boldly and mistakenly proclaimed from pulpit and  even classroom.

I'd love to revive a proposal I submitted once to a publisher, which I would now title, A New Perspective on Hebrews (I abandoned the earlier proposal when they told me they wouldn't pay a royalty until I had sold something like a 1000 copies).  Hebrews is fertile ground for exploding unexamined assumptions of this sort.  Unfortunately, I am committed to a different book as my next scholarly venture.

Maybe next year.


Rick said...

Are you saying you think there was not a Regula Fidei, or are you saying there was diversity in regards to other issues?

Ken Schenck said...

The diversity that Brown and Meier explore, as I recall, primarily has to do with the issue of continuity/discontinuity with the Jewish Law. Whether we completely agree with him or not, something like Dunn's Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? at least potentially alerts us to our unexamined assumptions about the earliest church even in relation to elements of the rule of faith.