About adrmckinney

Previously a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, I am currently a student at Duke Divinity School working toward my second (yes, second) ThM. Hopefully, I will be working on my PhD next year. I am married to Christy and we have three wonderful children. My academic interests are Gospel studies (canonical and non-canonical), Historical Jesus, Paul, Second Temple Judaism, and reconstructing the early Christ-following communities. Contact Info: adrmckinney@gmail.com

Reenacting the Council of Nicaea

THE_FIRST_COUNCIL_OF_NICEAI recently had the opportunity to participate in an undergraduate Reacting Game on the Council of Nicaea at Duke University. This game was designed by David Henderson and Frank Kirkpatrick at Trinity College. The basic premise is that each student is given a character that was either present at the council or, because class sizes can be large, given a fictional character. The students are given personalized instruction regarding their character, including a biography, a theological agenda, and tips on how their character can best achieve victory points and win the game. As far as the game is concerned, students gain victory points by reaching certain objectives or can win outright if they meet a particular objective. As far as the course is concerned, students are graded based on their participation, on their written speeches that they turned in during the course of the game, and on their final paper they turn in at the end of class. Following almost half a semester of lectures, which gives a history of the Christian movement up to the beginning of the council, the game begins and lasts for three weeks.

Having never experienced such a pedagogical apparatus, I was uncertain about what to expect. In the end, I had a blast and learned more about the council than I did during the first time I learned about this period (lecture style).

What I appreciate most about this teaching style is that it incisively portrays the political atmosphere of the historical council. In other words, with this pedagogy, the professor is not able to teach about the Council of Nicaea as if the results of the council reflected merely the pure and holy interpretations of Scripture. Indeed, reenacting the Nicaean Council problematized this conclusion on so many levels.

Because the class was so large, there were two councils playing at the same time. In the northern council, the Arian faction succeeded in writing a very Arian creed, while Athanasius was eventually excommunicated from the council. In the southern council, a more “orthodox” leaning creed won the day, while Arius bemoaned how unfair the entire council was. (Neither Arius nor Athanasius had voting power at the beginning of the council. They had to be ordained as bishops before they could vote and the southern Arius failed to do this, while the northern Arius was ordained by the second class session.) The southern Arius’ cries of foul play were justified, as he was completely marginalized by Ossius (Constantine’s favored bishop, who was of the “orthodox” persuasion), who limited Arius’ speaking time and readily dismissed his arguments (many of which were quite cogent).

In the southern council, the Gospel of John was rejected for the Gospel of Mary, a canon stating that women could hold ecclesial offices was ratified, and the date of Easter was synced with the Jewish Passover.

The political landscape of this council was an evolving matrix of power and monetary grabs, bribes, threats, aspersions, and falsehoods. On numerous occasions, the piety of bishops was unveiled to reveal sanctimonious actions and mischievous intents. Although ulterior motives were discovered, there were occasions when the bishop’s duplicity was victorious in pushing his agenda into the creed or solidifying it as a canon.

The politicking was not isolated to class time, as members of the councils engaged in secret emails, scurrilous tweets, and surreptitious meetings. The northern council was particularly active outside of class, as Constantine, Athanasius, and others bought lunch for certain bishops in order to persuade them to vote a certain way. Tweets and emails were often forged in hopes of maligning other characters.

From a pedagogical standpoint, such a learning environment forced the students to learn the agendas of all the other characters; after all, they needed to make allies, know who they might need to persuade and how to persuade them, and know how to argue against their opponents. In addition, the students had to recognize that while one person might oppose them on one issue, he might be their biggest ally on another; enemies quickly became friends and friends, enemies. This ever-changing environment demanded that students learn the material inside and out.

Each class period was full of students giving speeches to promote their agendas, counter speeches, and many impromptu dialogues where characters were digging dip into their knowledge of scripture and appealing to the desires of friends (and sometimes foes) to win the debate and get their objectives put into the creed or ratified as a canon. There were many occasions where these undergraduates impressed me with how well they knew the appropriate information and could negotiate the situations on the fly.

From my perspective (a graduate student who participated but also observed for pedagogical worth), I would say this game was a success. The students displayed an active knowledge of the material and synthesized and applied that knowledge throughout the game. The students also had to turn in their speeches to the professor, as well as write a paper, so the professor will have a better idea about how well they did. But if there is anything these students take away from this class, they will certainly walk away with the realization that the Council of Nicaea was dictated more by politics, influence, and power than by the hand of God. Personally, rather than the calm and heavenly image of the Council posted above, it seems that a more likely image would be a bit more contentious.

Parliament Fight

 

A Few Important Things to Consider before Doing a ThM at Duke

Duke ChapelOver the past three years I have been at Duke, where I completed my ThM, overcame the GRE, and applied to PhD programs at American universities. During my time here, I have watched my fellow ThMer’s go on to begin doctoral work (both in the states and overseas––the latter typically the result of not being accepted in the states and thus looking overseas to simply begin their doctoral work) or abandon their original goal of pursuing a PhD. Although there are many reasons why some have chosen to seek alternative vocations, one reason that plays significantly into this decision is the gradual disillusion that Duke’s ThM is not what one anticipates. As I meet more and more incoming ThM students, I find that we all share similar frustrations, especially when these new students are midway through their first semester. It is these common frustrations that I would like to share in this post.

Let me begin by stating what Duke’s ThM program entails and by giving a few positive remarks about it. Duke’s ThM program is advertised (I’ll come back to this) as a one-year degree, which requires the completion of eight course, one of which is the thesis or exam (you get to choose, although the thesis is recommended). For those looking to begin PhD as soon as possible (which is everyone), this short, one-year degree is quite appealing. Another appealing feature is that there are no required courses for the ThM. That means that you are free to take whatever classes you want at Duke or UNC, given that they are related to your overall degree (thus, a course on 19th century Impressionism would not be approved). Anyone who has gone through an MDiv program (or ThM at DTS) will find this to be a tantalizing draw. A third attractive feature is that you do not have to (re)take the GRE, since a prerequisite for the program is that you already have a master’s degree (and presumably would have taken the GRE for that program, although this is not necessarily the case).

Unfortunately, the advertised one-year degree, the open-course selection, and the fact that the GRE is not required comes with some significant baggage and frustrations. First, Duke’s ThM program is the cash cow of the divinity school. That means that there is no funding available (zero!) for ThM students. This is a big deal considering that it costs $20k a year to attend.

And this brings us to one of the bigger frustrations of Duke’s ThM program: although it is advertised as a one-year degree, to finish all eight course in one year is quite difficult. Of the twelve ThM students of my class, only four finished within the year; NB, none of these classmates went on for PhD work! Those who finished within the year were focused on doing ministerial work and needed to get back to or begin their ministerial jobs (this is what the ThM is for, anyway). There is a big difference between these ThM students and those who are pursuing PhD work: the latter need to take as many doctoral seminars as possible to bolster their transcript, which means that taking four classes per semester, and writing your thesis in one of those semesters, is extremely difficult because the work load for a doctoral seminar is significantly greater than the work load for even upper-level master’s courses.

In addition to the difficulty of trying to finish all eight courses in one year, there is also the issue of entering this one-year degree with the aspiration of beginning a PhD program the very next fall. It is absolutely foolish to think that in half a semester a new student can demonstrate his or her worth to a professor, who would then turn around and write a meaningful recommendation letter for PhD applications. I would say that it takes at least two courses before a professor will really get to know a student’s PhD value (there are certainly those students who would prove me wrong, but to them I wonder why they are doing this degree in the first place and why they didn’t just apply directly to PhD programs). For me, my first semester was all about trying to impress professors, whose recommendations I needed later that semester. I failed miserably. My initial semester was filled with embarrassment, depression, and an overall sense incompetence. I did not rebound from this initial defeat until partway through my second semester, at which point I stopped trying to impress (which allowed me to start enjoying what I was learning rather than fretting over it), finally realized what it means to prepare for each class of a PhD-level course, and began to attend more reading groups and colloquiums, which allowed me to get to know professors and students outside of class. My point is this: for many who come into the ThM program, the first semester is a time for learning what it takes to be a PhD quality student. This takes time! The first semester, then, is not the time to ask for recommendation letters, which means that beginning a PhD program immediately after you finish your one-year ThM degree is not a realistic goal.

Overall, then, the advertisement of the ThM as a one-year degree is misleading for two reasons: for many, it takes more than one year to finish all eight courses and it fosters the unreasonable expectation of entering a PhD program immediately after finishing the ThM in one year. If you choose to enter Duke’s ThM program, enter with the mindset that it will take you one and a half to two years to finish. It is quite reasonable to think that you can begin a PhD program immediately after that second year.

If it takes you more than one year to finish, however, it will also cost you more than $20k. (Because pricing varies on the amount of courses you take per semester, you will need to contact the school to figure out how much a part-time load will cost.) Keep this in mind!

There is also the option of doing the MTS in the Divinity School (although I’m not certain that you can enter the MTS program if you already have a masters degree) or the MA in the Religion program. Both of these degrees have available founding and both are two years. The drawback for both of these programs is that the GRE is required. Also, there are mandatory course: for the MTS, there are eight required courses (basic courses like, Old and New Testament surveys, Church History, Christian Theology, etc.); for the MA, there is only one required course, “Theorizing Religion.”

In the end, each of these three degrees at Duke will prepare you for PhD work. There is an excellent faculty at both Duke and UNC that will work with you to help you achieve your academic goals. Yet, it is crucial that before you begin your journey at Duke that you are fully aware of precisely what it will take to reach these goals. The ThM program has been both a blessing and a curse for me––a $20k curse to be exact. I wish that I would have known these points of frustration prior to entering the program; not that it would have necessarily prompted me to look elsewhere for an equivalent degree, but that my family and I could have better prepared ourselves for what awaited us. (After spending six years completing my first ThM, it was truly a disheartening realization that I would not finish in one year, and this discouragement is shared by many other ThM students.) I share this information so that if you choose to enter Duke’s ThM program you will be better aware of what awaits you.

Review of Bruce Metzger’s “The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987

9780198269540_p0_v1_s260x420Bruce Metzger’s, The Canon of the New Testament, is an examination of the development of the New Testament canon from the first century to the twentieth century. Yet, this book is more than a historical treatise on the canon; it also speaks to theological interests invested in canonicity (v). The book is structured in three parts: Part One is a survey of scholarly literature on canon formation; Part Two is an investigation through primary sources of canon formation; and Part Three is an exploration of the historical and theological issues surrounding the concept of canonicity.

In Part One, Metzger offers a detailed survey of the scholarly literature on canon formation from the seventeenth century through the twentieth century. He provides a sufficient review of the major scholars and their works and does a thorough job in highlighting the pressing topics regarding canonicity as they varied throughout the centuries.

Part Two of this book is a cache of valuable information. Although Metzger’s historical survey covers an expansive time frame, beginning at the end of the first century and ending at the twentieth century, he focuses his attention and fastidious research on the first four centuries.

Beginning with the Apostolic Fathers, Metzger considers this collection to represent a period of canonical preparation, where authority is not placed on a certain collection of books but rather is ascribed to the Law and the Prophets, sayings of Jesus, and apostolic sayings. Despite a few references to “the Gospel,” the majority of Jesus and apostolic saying are allusions, lacking clear and authoritative references to any particular text. Many of the allusions, nevertheless, can be traced back to canonical Gospels and Epistles, which leads Metzger to conclude that the authors of the Apostolic Fathers regard the books that would later become canonical with an “implicit authority” (73).

Before tracing the development of the canon beyond the period of the Apostolic Fathers, Metzger examines the possible reasons that precipitated the need for an authoritative collection of Christian writings. He views the conflict between the “Great Church”––as he calls it––and other Christian groups as the principal impetus for the future establishment of the canon. For example, Marcion’s rejection of Jewish scripture and Jewish contexts in the Gospels and Pauline letters caused the Church to “recognize the breadth of the written corpus as authoritative” (106). He further suggests that canon formation was influenced by persecution, during which Christians would likely be forced to choose with little delay which books they are willing to hand over to authorities and for which ones they are willing to suffer. He also mentions book making as well as Jewish and pagan constructions of lists of (authoritative) books as other possible influences perpetuating the development of the Christian canon.

After expounding on these polemical relationships and circumstances, Metzger then surveys canon formation through the Eastern and Western churches and discusses at length two early Christian book lists: the Muratorian Canon and Eusebius’ list. The results of his investigation show that it is only near the end of the second century that we first find, in Clement of Alexandria and Ireneaus, a four-fold gospel standard. According to Metzger, one exception to this later date is Tatian’s early second-century Diaterssaron, which shows that Tatian viewed Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the only authoritative Gospels; a conclusion he maintains despite his acknowledgment of extra-canonical material in the harmony (115–16). Apostolic writings, on the other hand, are still fluid as late as the early fourth century, as there is yet no consensus of which writings are to be considered authoritative and which ones are to be eschewed.

Metzger devotes two chapters to Christian attempts at finalizing a determinative canon. By adducing an extensive array of evidence from the fourth century to the present, he shows that in the East the concept of canonicity is still, as of the twentieth century, a fluid idea, while in the West the canon eventually found more stability in the sixteenth century––at least as it concerns the books of the New Testament.

In accord with his stated intent given in the preface, Part Three incorporates the theological results of the historical endeavor thus far. He begins by laying out three criteria used by the church fathers to determine which books would be considered canonical: those that attested to a “rule of faith” (defined by Metzger as those which adhered to the Christian tradition “recognized as normative by the Church” [251]), those perceived to be of legitimate apostolic authorship, and those that were generally accepted as authentic (251–254). Notably, a criterion of inspiration is omitted from this list; Metzger concludes that inspiration was not used to ascribe canonical status because the early church leaders frequently viewed anyone––even their contemporaries––who wrote or spoke under the guidance of the Spirit to be inspired. He ends the book with a discussion on current issues regarding canonicity, including: whether today the canon can considered open or closed, whether it is appropriate to speak of a canon within a canon, and whether the canon is a collection of authoritative books or an authoritative collection of books.

Metzger does include a discussion on canonicity and apocryphal literature, but it is one of the more curious parts of his book. In this chapter he gives adequate attention to apocryphal Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Apocalypses, and a few “Miscellaneous Writings”––which is largely made up of writings from the Apostolic Fathers. The attention given to these works is that of illustrating why the “Great Church” eventually rejected them. The reason: they contain aberrant theological views, possess little, if any, historical veracity, and are unable to convincingly demonstrate apostolicity.

For all the astute historical examination and detail that permeates this fine book, this chapter on apocryphal literature is indeed odd. It appears that instead of merely illustrating why the “Great Church” rejected certain Christian writings, Metzger uses this chapter to defend the position of the Church by traducing those writings that stand beyond the limits of a later orthodox standard. Thus, he argues that the apocryphal works are “romantic,” “fanciful,” “strange,” and “entertaining” (168–69, 174, 175, 177, 178) writings for a “popular” audience (168, 175, 178) that belie their own historicity and apostolicity (168–69, 173, 174, 175, 177, 179). This rhetoric is problematic for a number of reasons, not least that these pejorative claims are one-sided and never fall against those writings more widely accepted by the “Great Church,” like the Shepherd of Hermas, or even those writings which eventually received canonical status, like the Acts of the Apostles or Revelation. This selective use of derogatory rhetoric enables Metzger to appeal to textual agency and conclude that “certain books exclude themselves from the canon” (286) while the canonical books “established themselves” (173). Metzger’s appeal to an absolute claim against apostolic and historical authenticity of apocryphal literature is also problematic, as it does not allow him to convincingly defend the pseudepigraphical nature of some canonical material when he argues that canonicity “is not affected by features that are open to adjudication, such as matters of authorship and genuineness” (284). Unfortunately for his argument, false authorial claims and suspect genuineness are precisely the grounds by which he adjudicates that apocryphal literature is to be rejected.

Despite this peculiar examination of apocryphal literature, Metzger’s book is nevertheless a thorough and erudite investigation into the development of the New Testament canon. This is indeed a volume that should appear on the self of every student of early Christianity, who will no doubt return to it again and again to retrieve its valuable information.

The Absence of Jesus in Discussions of Conversion in a Few Second-Century Writings

While it is difficult for us today to think of salvation in terms that exclude Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection, there appears to have been some Christian groups that understood God’s plan of salvation apart from these events of Jesus’ earthly existence. In what follows I want to look at three second-century texts that speak of conversion without mentioning Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection.

Theophilus to Autolycus

Theophilus was a second century bishop of Syria Antioch and an apologist. According to Jerome, his three volume apologetic was “well fitted for the edification of the
church” (Lives, 25, 347–419). At the beginning of the three volumes, Theophilus self identifies as a Christian: “And furthermore, you call me a Christian as if I were bearing an
evil name, I acknowledge that I am a Christian. I bear this name beloved by God in hope of being useful to God” (1.1). Theophilus never mentions the name or the person of Jesus in his three volumes. Nevertheless, he does speak about how God saves people: “For God gave us a law and holy commandments; everyone who performs them can be saved and, attaining to the resurrection, can inherit imperishability (2.27).” There is a hope of resurrection but no discussion about Jesus or his resurrection. Turning to a life of
immortality is not by knowing about Jesus but by “keeping the commandments of God” (2.27). God’s Logos does appear in the three volumes but is not identified with the person of Jesus. Rather, the Logos is innate within the “bowels” of God, who generates (γεννάω)
the Logos with the help of Sophia (2.10). The Logos was generated for the purpose of creating all things and enlightened the prophets about the creation and Torah (2.10; 3.11). Although the Logos is the divine mediator, speaking and acting on behalf of God (2.22),
the Logos’ role in salvation is to reveal God’s commands to the prophets, who in turn reveal them to all humanity (3.11). Again, obedience to these divine commands, not the work or knowledge of Jesus, is the means of salvation (2.27).

Minucius Felix

In another apologetic text, we encounter a debate between a (uneducated) Christian (Caecilius) and a Philosopher (Octavius), where Jesus is mentioned only a couple of times. This first mention of Jesus is in Octavius’ attack on Christians for following a criminal who was crucified: “There are also stories about the objects of their veneration: they are said to be a man who was punished with death as a criminal and the fell wood of his cross, thus providing suitable liturgy for the depraved fiends: they [Christians] worship what they deserve” (9.4). Caecilius’ response to Octavius’ charge reflects the second mention of Jesus: “Now, you ascribe to our religion a criminal and his cross. You are not even remotely correct in supposing that either a criminal could have merited or an earthly creature been able to be though a god” (29.2). He goes on to argue by analogy that it is not unreasonable that Christian recognize the human Jesus as a god because human
“emperors and kings” are upheld as great men and gods. Although Caecilius does not consider emperors and kings to be gods, it nevertheless defends the Christian belief that Jesus is to be venerated as a God. In his defense against Jesus being a criminal, Caecilius argues that the cross is not a symbol of indictment against Jesus because the cross is a symbol of nature and natural order: “…[T]he sign of the cross is fundamental to the order of nature [and] that it forms the framework of your [Octavius] own religion” (29.8). Thus, the conversation about Jesus in Minucius Felix is in relation to the cross, but there is no attempt on the part of Caecilius to present Jesus and the cross as points of salvation for humanity. It might then be surprising that Octavius becomes a Christian after he listens to Caecilius’ lengthy defense of Christianity. In his final words of approbation, Octavius says, “We have both won in a sense: it may sound outrageous, but I claim victory too, for while Octavius is victorious over me, I am triumphant over error” (40.1). Conversion, then, is not recognizing the actual work of Jesus on the cross but realizing that Jesus is not a criminal and that it is completely reasonable for Christians to worship the man Jesus as a god. But, this is just an isolated examples within a larger debate about a defense against anti-Christian accusations concern praxis and ritual. Overall, Octavius is converted from error because Caecilius proved to be the better philosopher––Jesus and the cross are simply one small part of that philosophical defense.

Acts of John

In the Acts of John (AJ), the apostle John travels around Asia Minor healing the afflicted and performing miraculous acts (cc. 18–86; I am excluding from this discussion John’s gospel message [cc. 87–105] and the Metastasis of John [cc. 106–115], because these accounts are significantly different than cc. 18–86). It is through healing and miracles that conversion takes place and conversion is either spoken of in terms of resurrection imagery or is the result of resurrection. Thus, the repeated trope is basically, God/Jesus (they are indistinguishable in the AJ) is a healer and physician who heals/raises the lost who are afflicted so that they might become believers in the one true God. It is remarkable, then, in light of all this language and imagery of suffering and resurrection, that Jesus’ suffering and
resurrection is never mentioned. Furthermore, conversion does not take place because the lost person believes in Jesus’ ministry, death, or resurrection, but rather because the person accepts that it is the one true God/Jesus who heals/raises from the dead. (This is not a eschatological bodily resurrection. Rather, in the AJ, at death a soul is either translated directly to God or is eternally damned––the flesh is merely a substance that disintegrates into nothing.)

The Didache and The Apology of Aristides are two other texts (that I can think of) where Jesus ministry and death is surprisingly absent when it comes to discussions about conversion. It seems, then, that it was not too uncommon for some Christian groups in the second century to not view Jesus earthly ministry, death and resurrection as salvifically significant. For me, this is perhaps one of the most striking and unexpected points of diversity within second-century Christianity.

Reason #2 Why A Healthy Knowledge Of Stoicism Is Vital For Students Of The NT

There are many good reason why students of the NT should spend a fair amount of time studying and becoming familiar with Stoicism, the least of which is that Stoicism had its hey-day in the first century of the common era. Yet, there is another reason why such knowledge is of significance. We find this reason in the second-century Acts of John.

Midway through the narrative, John receives an epiphany telling him to make his way into the country. John obediently follows the divine order and comes upon a farm, where he notices a young man running toward the farm with a sickle.

Through their conversation, we learn that the young man was on his way to commit suicide because he had just murdered his father with a lethal kick. The son discloses that there was some tension between him and his father, specifically over his desire to take another man’s wife as his own, an act of which his completely unreasonable father disapproved. The son had decided, therefore, to gruesomely kill himself with a sickle (probably because his other lethal weapon, his foot, is not among the weapons of choice for killing oneself).

John decides to intervene and alleviate the regrettable situation by resurrecting the son’s father. What happens next may perhaps be a tad bit over the top: “But when the young man saw the unexpected resurrection of his father and his own deliverance, he took the sickle and took off his private parts; and he ran to the house where he kept his adulteress and threw them down before her, and said, ‘For your sake I became my father’s murderer…. As for me, God has had mercy on me and shown me his power.”

In a state of ebullience, the son “went and told John before the brethren what he had done. But John said to him, ‘Young man, the one who tempted you to kill your father and commit adultery with another man’s wife, he has also made you take off the unruly (members) as if this were a virtuous act. But you should not have destroyed the place (of your temptation), but the thought which showed its temper through those members; for it is not those organs which are harmful to man, but the unseen springs through which every shameful emotion is stirred up and comes to light.”

What could have saved this young man from such an impetuous act? Stoicism 101! We might wonder why John, who is cast in the Acts of John as a man of superior wisdom, did not consider teaching the transparently distraught and emotionally charged young man, who happened to be wearing a sickle on is belt and disclosing his intent to kill himself in a “more cruel” manner than that of his father, a brief lesson on Stoicism. Why did he wait until later to reveal to the young man the beliefs of the group? Perhaps it was events like this that caused the church to think that catechism prior to initiation was better than the alternative.

We should not miss the other take away, though: Stoicism is more than a philosophy that helps us interpret the NT, it also has practical life applications and might one day keep you from feeling a little sheepish in front of a group of people you are trying to impress.

The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah and the Destruction of the Powers of This Cosmos

After reading the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah I was left with a nagging question that I can not answer. So, I’m hoping that there is someone out there who has spent more time with apocalyptic literature or (more specifically) ascension narratives that might be able to provide an answer for me.

In the Ascension of Isaiah, the Most High commissions Jesus to descend through the seven heavens into the firmament, where the evil powers of the firmament rule and envy each other (7.9). As he travels through each heaven and into the firmament, Jesus’ form will transform to match the angels that exist in each level. So when Jesus arrives in the firmament, he is unrecognizable as the one who is the Lord of the seventh heaven (10.11). Once in the firmament, his furtive mission is to carry out the process of being born of a virgin (11.2–15), to act like a baby––so as not to draw attention to himself as if he is something greater (11.17)––to perform signs and wonders in Israel (11.18), to provoke the adversary and the children of Israel to kill him (11.19–21), to raise from the dead, send out the twelve apostles, to ascend back through the heavens, and to take his seat on his throne (11.21–22). At this point in the narrative, we learn that the purpose of this mission is be able to pronounce judgment on Satan and his forces in the firmament and to destroy them (7.10; 10.12).

Another key purpose of Jesus’ mission is that it marks a transitional point in time when those who have already ascended into the seventh heaven and have already received their supernal garments (e.g., Enoch) will then receive their crown and be aloud to sit on their throne (9.9–13). For those who had died but not yet ascended, they will ascend with Jesus and receive their supernal garments in the seventh heaven (9.17–18). So it appears that Jesus mission serves two purposes: (1) to judge and destroy the powers of the firmament and (2) to complete the transformation of the righteous, who are awaiting their supernal garments, their crowns, and their thrones.

That Jesus must appear in human form in order to complete the transformation of the righteous into their immortal state is clear to me: Jesus serves as the firstfruits of human apotheosis. What is less clear, though, is why Jesus had to descend into the firmament and carry out the mission in order to judge and destroy the rulers of the firmament. It is also curious to me that when Jesus does ascend, he does not pronounce judgment on the powers and he does not destroy anyone.

So here are my question: According to the Ascension of Isaiah (or other narratives which might invoke a similar theme), how and when is this judgment and destruction supposed to take place and why was it necessary for Jesus to carry out this mission in order to judge and destroy the powers of the firmament?

The Different Faces of the Apostles in the Second Century: James

This semester I am taking a class on Christianity in the second century, where we are reading through Christian primary literature. For this class I have decided to catalog the different ways in which the apostles are used to promote a certain way of Christianity. For example, I want to see how Peter is used by the various second century writers to promote their own Christian self-identification and how this same figure is used to polemicize against other Christian groups. I am examining these texts from a historical point of view, rather than a theological perspective. In other words, I am not attempting to argue that one text is superior to another because one might hold to a more “orthodox” or “heretical” view than another. Rather, I am seeking to find the different ways in which Christianity expressed itself in the second century and, more specially, how they used apostolic figures to express these sometimes competing views. Because of this, I will speak of all these groups as Christian, and will do my best to avoid terms like “gnostic,” “heretical” and “orthodox.”

Let’s begin with James. In our earliest record of James, he is presented as one of the pillars of the Christian movement (Gal 2.9). This tradition of James as an authority is indicated again in Acts 15 and 21 and is supposed by second century writers based on the fact that they used his name to authorize their writings (see also the Epistle of Jude, where the author validates the letter by establishing a familial relationship with James [1.1]). In the NT, James is––for the most part––a consistent figure; namely Jewish. In the epistle bearing his name, James is adamant about keeping the Torah, and speaks about the Torah in terms of grandeur (“law of liberty,” 1.25; “royal law,” 2.8). The law also retains its function in the Jesus movement as a form of conviction (against favoritism, 2.9), and it does not appear that James is willing to be selective as to which portions of the law Christians must follow; rather the unity of the law is upheld in that if someone breaks one part of the law, he or she has violated the entire law. It should also be noted that James’ community gathers in a synagogue (2.2).

I am not convinced that Acts 15 speaks against the Jewishness of James or James’ Jewish vision for the church. The role of Gentiles in a Jewish community was a debated issue within the spectrum of Judaism. So it does not follow in my mind that the James of Acts is necessarily promoting a dichotomy between Christianity and Judaism. What is more important to notice about James at this point is that there is no indication that James despises the god of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Scriptures themselves.

Thus, in the NT, I believe the Jewishness of James is upheld or at least nothing definitively reveals James to be other than a promoter of some spectrum of Jewish Christianity.
In the middle of the second century, we find two apocalypses attributed to James. The First Apocalypse of James reveals a conversation between Jesus and James prior to Jesus crucifixion and another conversation between the risen Jesus and James prior to James’ martyrdom. In the Second Apocalypse of James, we find James on trial, reporting to his accusers about conversations he and Jesus had in the past, after which he is stoned.

There is a significant difference between the James of the First Apocalypse and that of the second. The former has a positive view of the god of the Hebrew Bible (HB). This god is the one who is unnamable and ineffable (1 Apoc. Jas. 24). Jesus comes from him and is his image (1 Apoc. Jas. 24, 25). In the Second Apocalypse, however, the god of the HB is viewed in a much more negative light:

“Your father [god of the HB], whom you consider rich, will grant that you inherit all that you see.…His inheritance, which he boasted about, claiming it was great, will prove to be insignificant. His gifts are not blessings and his promises are evil intrigues. You are not of <the children> of his compassion, but he does violence against you. He wants to do injustice against us. And he will have dominion for a period of time appointed for him” (2 Apoc. Jas. 52, 53).

In similar sentiment, we read:

The creator god [of the HB] cannot perceive the light of the supreme Father and he merely uses the light. “Because of this he [utters curses], and because of this he boasts, that he may not be rebuked. For this reason he is superior to those who are below, who were looked down upon, in order to be perfected in them. After he captured those who are from the Father, he seized them and shaped them to resemble himself and so they are with him” (2 Apoc. Jas. 54).

By contrast, the author of the Second Apocalypse views the supernal Father as the superior deity:

“But understand and know the Father who has compassion, who was not given an inheritance, whose inheritance is unlimited, with an unlimited number of days.” Rather, it is an eternal [day], and it is [light]” (2 Apoc. Jas. 52–53).

That the author of Second Apocalypse is polemicizing against the god of the Jews is clear. It would follow then that this author has appropriated the representative leader of the church for a more non-Jewish purpose; namely, the rejection of the Jewish god and, thus, all things promised by the this god (e.g., land, long earthly life). This is diametrically opposed to the James we find in the Epistle (who reveals no animosity against the god of the HB, seemingly view the Torah in high regard [1.25; 2.8–12], and still envisions the community meeting in a synagogue [Jas 2.2]) and is more extreme than the James we find in Acts (wherever one might place the James in Acts on the Jewish/Christian spectrum, he never rejects the god of the HB).

Aside from their disparate views on which god constitutes the true and supreme deity, these two works are homogenous on some fairly substantial points. Both works decry the flesh and look toward a time when their terrestrial bodies can be defenestrated (1 Apoc. Jas. 27; 32; 2 Apoc. Jas. 57; 63). In spite of the author of the First Apocalypse affirming and praising the Jewish god, he nevertheless joins the author of Second Apocalypse in condemning the terrestrial as perishable, impure, and ignorant and anticipating the imperishable supernal life (1 Apoc. Jas. 28; 2 Apoc. Jas. 46; 60).

Thus, in the two apocalypses of James we find both continuity and discontinuity. The two James’ agree that the flesh is to be dispensed and they both condemn the terrestrial realm because of its inherent failures and both look forward to an eternal life of supernal bliss. However, James becomes schizophrenic when we look at his view of the Jewish god; the author of the First Apocalypse favors the Jewish god and never mentions the possible existence of another greater deity, while the author of the Second Apocalypse rescinds the authority of the Jewish god––claiming he only promised things that were perishable––and exalts the supernal god––who promises immortality. In other words, in the 1 Apocalypse of James we find a Jewish James, while in the 2 Apocalypse of James we find a non-Jewish James, who actually rejects the Jewish god. They perceive of their future in similar terms but perceive of their pasts in very oppositional ways.

Ancient Heroes as Paradigms of Vicarious Sacrifices for the Maccabean Martyrs?

Fourth Maccabees is a philosophical treatise intended to show how reason can overcome pain and adversity (chs. 1–3). By enduring through adversities––as in the case of the martyrs in 4 Maccabees––God rewards such an individual with apotheosis. It is in this light that the author of 4 Maccabees tells the story of the martyrdom of Eleazar, the priest, and the mother and her seven sons. Throughout the tortures and coaxing of Antiochus and the torturers, none of the martyrs succumbed to the pain and the desire for “instant deliverance” (15.3). In so doing, they rejoiced in their postmortem hope of immortality (see 7.18–19; 9.8–9, 21–22; 10.15; 14.5; 15.3 16.13, 25; 17.5, 11–12; 18.3).

But the deaths of the martyrs represent more than their own immortality, their deaths were also viewed as vicarious sacrifices, providing forgiveness of sins for the nation and purifying the land from the tyrant (i.e., Antiochus IV; 6.27–29; 17.20–22). Thus, the martyrs deaths were efficacious for both their own immortality and the deliverance of the nation from sin and impurity.

The martyrs are repeatedly compared to and encouraged to imitate past heroes who endured bravely through trials. The four most prevalent heroes are Abraham and Isaac (7.13–14; 13.8–12; 16.18–20; 18.11; cf. Gen 22 [Akedah]), Daniel (13.9; 16.3, 21; 18.12–13; cf. Dan 6), and the three youth in the furnace (13.9; 16.3, 21; 18.12–13; cf. Dan 3). These past heroes are consistently evoked as those who courageously and willingly offered their lives but they are never evoked as paradigms as those who died as an expiation for sins or the deliverance of a nation from oppressive powers.

While some argue that expiatory value is attached to the Akedah in 4 Maccabees, I am not convinced. For one, the two passages in 4 Maccabees where the expiatory nature of the martyrs’ sacrifices is evinced (6.27–29; 17.20–22) no allusion to the Akedah appears. The allusions to these past heroes are always evoked in context courage, willingness, and immortality. The author of 4 Maccabees has, therefore, given no indication that he is reading these paradigmatic stories in any other way.

I am also not convinced by the arguments that state that the expiatory nature of the Akedah is implicit in that it is ambiguous whether Isaac lived or was sacrificed (cf. 13.8–12; 18.11) and (thus) by comparing Isaac to the martyrs’, the conclusion that Isaac’s death was vicarious would naturally follow. Concerning the latter, this argument conflicts with the author’s habitual reflections of the martyrs’ being encouraged to behave like their ancestral heroes. In other words, the ancestral heroes are always presented as paradigms for the martyrs’, not vice versa. Concerning the former argument, it would appear that the author of 4 Maccabees is dealing with the obvious tension between the martyrs and their heroes, in that while the martyrs’ die, their heroes, whom they emulate, are delivered prior to their deaths. Because of this, the author of 4 Maccabees emphasizes the areas in which they are similar (e.g., bravery, willingness, rational) but stops short of creating a new Akedah tradition in which Isaac is actually sacrificed but also does not say that the sacrifice was stopped. Thus, it is difficult to even say that the author implies that Isaac died on the altar. The most that can be said is that the author of 4 Maccabees has refrained from explicitly stating how the offering of Isaac ended and, thus, has created an ambiguity, which alleviates the inherent tension in the comparisons that are made between the Akedah and the Maccabean martyrs.

Although the Akedah fails to be persuasive, both the Old Greek and the Theodotion versions of the three youth contain additional material that relates to our conversation about vicarious sacrifices (LXX Dan 3.22–96). Of particular interest is the first prayer made by Azarias, one of the three youth.

While this addition is primarily about God’s deliverance (cf. LXX Dan 3.95–96), Azarias’ speech reveals that the imminent (although never completed) death of the three youth would have been viewed as a meritorious sacrifice, efficacious for the nation. Azarias begins by praising God, then confesses the sins of the nation, and acknowledges the justness of God’s judgment. He then pleads to God not to forget his covenant, which he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (vv. 34–35). After they acknowledge that there is no burnt offerings or sacrifices in the land, they ask God:

But rather with a broken life and a humbled spirit may we be accepted, as though it were with whole burnt offering or rams and bulls and with tens of thousands of fat lambs; thus let our sacrifice come before you today… (vv. 39–40)

Following this, Azarias asks God to deliver them (v. 43). This is an odd request when he just finished asking God to accept their sacrifice. Thus, perhaps Azarias is requesting a postmortem deliverance. Nevertheless, Azarais views their deaths as something that should deserve merit. In this case, the merit is expiation of national sins; they would serve as vicarious sacrifices for the sins of the nation. With the nation being purified from their sins via the sacrifice of the three youth, their hope seems to be that God will deliver the nation from exile and oppression (vv. 40–45). (There does not appear to be any appeal to a hope of future immortality.)

Assuming that this tradition preserved in these Greek translations predates 4 Maccabees (first half of the first c.–early second c.)––which I think is a safe assumption––it is interesting that the author of 4 Maccabees does not appeal to this tradition when he is ascribing expiatory value to the martyrs deaths (cf. 6.27–29; 17.20–22). Perhaps this silence suggests that the author was unaware of this tradition. Or perhaps the author did not like these additions to the Hebrew/Aramaic texts and chose to ignore them altogether. Nevertheless, I find it fascinating that there is yet another martyrology that ascribes nationalistic merit to the (would-be) deaths of the martyrs’. Perhaps, in our examinations of 4 Maccabees, if we are looking for ancient heroes whose deaths exhibited merit, we should look to the three youth. In the end, though, I think this would be about as tenuous as looking for expiatory value in the Akedah as it is presented in 4 Maccabees; the author simply does not make this connection.

Jesus Tells a Lie and Breaks the Sabbath: Festival Attendance and Sabbath Controversy

Painting on west wall in Dura Synagogue. Possibly a depiction of the midwives before Pharaoh, receiving order to kill the male babies. In the narrative they lie to Pharaoh and are blessed by God. – Exod 1.15-21

I derive the title of this post from John 7, where Jesus first tells a lie (7.1–10) and later defends his right to heal on the Sabbath (7.20–24; cf. 5.1–15). I would imagine, that for many readers of this post, the first of these transgressions is much more shocking than the latter. Interestingly, though, while Jesus breaks two commandments of the Decalogue he only defends himself against Sabbath breaking. In fact, the evangelist is not at all concerned that Jesus lies.

In this post, I want to briefly examine both transgressions and then offer a hypothetical retelling of the Sabbath controversy, where we replace Sabbath breaking with lying. This will be an attempt to explicate the severity of Jesus’ actions to those who are typically not troubled by Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath.

{Update (7/7/13): When I first wrote this post it seemed to me evident that Jesus was indeed lying. I therefore did not include a defense of this conclusion but simply stated it as fact. I have received a couple of responses challenging my statement that Jesus was lying and, while I have responded to them below, I feel that I ought to provide a formal defense within the post of why I believe Jesus is lying in John 7.

It seems to me that Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to celebrate Succoth anon after telling his brothers that he is not going to Jerusalem leaves us with two options: Jesus changed his mind or he lied to his brothers. If we entertain the former, we need to find something in the text that reveals (whether explicitly or implicitly) that Jesus changed his mind. Thus, we need to know why Jesus decided not to go. In v. 6 Jesus tells his brothers that the reason does not want to attend Succoth is because his “time has not yet come,” which means it is not time for Jesus to die. Thus, in light of his opposition that is waiting to kill him at any opportunity (v. 1), Jesus’ reason for not wanting to attend Succoth is more than understandable. It is odd, however, that Jesus does attend the festival even though his hour had not yet come (see 8.20) and indeed will not come until the end of his public career (17.1). It does not seem, then, that Jesus changed his mind, for the very reason why he told his brothers he was not attending had not yet occurred.

In order to examine the second option––i.e., Jesus lied––we need to find a motivation to for Jesus to lie. The narrative reveals that there was an opposition to Jesus waiting in Jerusalem in order to kill him (v. 1), thus Jesus can not enter into Jerusalem conspicuously. Although his brothers are probably not intending to enter Jerusalem behind a marching band announcing their arrival, they are also not concerned about stealth. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to remain unseen until his speech. Thus, it is quite plausible that Jesus lied to his brothers that he was not going to attend Succoth so that he could surreptitiously enter Jerusalem on his own (v. 10) and remain their under the protection of his supposed absence (a pretense his brothers would have unknowingly spread).

In the end, the argument that Jesus changed his mind is weakened by the fact that the reason Jesus gave for not attending Succoth is not fulfilled until ch. 17. In other words, there appears to be no explicit or implicit reason in the text for Jesus to have changed his mind. On the other hand, the argument that Jesus lies coincides well with Jesus’ knowledge that his opponents want to kill him, which provides a clear motivation as to why Jesus would have lied to his brothers.}

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Growing up, lying was always considered one of those absolute sins; that is, there was never a time when lying was justified. It’s a sin. Period. You don’t do it. It was also common to play the “what if” game, where we would place ourselves in difficult scenarios, which would engender a discussion about whether it was appropriate to lie or whether the truth was the appropriate response. As far as I remember, 100% of the time, no matter what situation in which we found ourselves, it was always wrong to lie. We justified this by saying that when we tell the truth, we leave matters in the hands of God.

While I am no longer an “absolutist” about the sinfulness of lying, it was still a bit shocking when I came across a lie told by Jesus. In John 7.8, Jesus tells his brothers, “I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” Once his brothers go off to the festival, however, we are told that “Jesus himself also went up [to the festival]” (v. 10).

Jesus certainly has his reasons for lying to his brothers; namely, that he desires to attend the festival secretly, for his time (i.e., arrest/death) has not yet come (v. 6). Regardless of the reasons, though, Jesus is portrayed as a liar. What’s more, the evangelist does not seem to be too concerned about Jesus’ lie. Rather, the evangelist is much more concerned with defending Jesus’ other sin: healing on the Sabbath (7.20–24; cf. 5.1-15; 9.1–14).

Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath was first taken up by the evangelist in ch. 5. Jesus defended his actions by stating that he will work on the Sabbath because the Father works continuously (v. 17). In ch. 7, though, Jesus takes a different approach. He defends himself by pointing out the already established rule that when the eighth day of an infants life falls on the Sabbath it is permitted to break the Sabbath to perform circumcision. Basically, circumcision was determined by the Jewish leaders to be weightier than the Sabbath. So when these two regulations came in conflict with each other, the weightier law (in this case, circumcision) was to be observed. Jesus’ conclusion is that healing someone on the Sabbath is not a sin because deliverance from oppression is a weightier command than keeping the Sabbath.

If you are not a Jew, the fact that Jesus would break Sabbath regulations to heal someone probably does not cause you any concern. However, keeping the Sabbath has always been a hallmark of Judaism. As such, Jesus actions on the Sabbath would come across as shocking and incredible for many Jews. This was certainly true for Jesus opponents in the Gospel accounts.

So why are non-Jews less troubled by Jesus actions on the Sabbath? I can only imagine it is because there is no emotional tie to the Sabbath. Gentiles might be aware of the importance of the Sabbath for Jews but this awareness is nothing more than intellectual knowledge. The Sabbath does not significantly impact the lives of gentiles.

Lying, on the other hand, has a more significant impact. For many Christians (and Jews?) lying is a sin that is never justified. If this is the case, I would argue that if these Christians want to get a better understanding of how unimaginable Jesus’ Sabbath actions would have been to those around him, perhaps it would be worthwhile to replace “Sabbath” with “lying.” As mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is a hypothetical scenario. Nevertheless, it bears some veracity because we have already seen that Jesus does tell a lie.

If we insert “lying” in place of “Sabbath,” then in John 5 and 9 Jesus delivers a man from oppression by lying. (Perhaps a fitting scenario would be that the man is being oppressed and Jesus lies about his whereabouts in order to deliver him from his oppressors. There are certainly other occasions in the Scriptures where someone lies to deliver someone from oppression and in return are blessed by God because they are doing his will [Exod 1.15–21; Josh 2]. More recently, those who lied to protect the Jews from the Nazis would be an appropriate illustration.) To put this in an accusatory form, Jesus is a liar. If this strikes you as blasphemous, then you get the point. It would be similar to the accusatory statement, Jesus breaks the Sabbath. One might respond that, “God would never command someone to lie; thus, clearly a man who lies can not be from God.” Now your starting to react like Jesus’ opponents (9.16). For Jesus, though, his actions are not his own, but those of the Father (4.34; 5.17, 19–22, 30, 36; 8.28; 10.25, 37; 14.10; 17.4, 14). Thus, Jesus is vindicated when he breaks the Sabbath and when he lies, for God has commanded him to do both.

Attempts to Harmonize Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity

Personifications of Church and Synagogue at the Strasbourg Cathedral, depicting the triumph of Christianity over Judaism

Typically, when I think about the relationship between early Christianity and Judaism, I picture binary opponents. That is, there are two extreme positions, each one deeming the other a heresy and, thus, self-identifying in relation to their extreme counterpart. More specifically, I picture Christians who viewed Judaism as antiquated, erroneous, or simply insufficient. On the other side, I picture non-Christian Jews viewing the Jesus movement as a heretical and defunct sect of Judaism, erroneously attesting to have certain ties to Judaism. Within this latter group I would also place Jewish Christians who would view Jesus and the movement associated with him as completely harmonious with Judaism and any Christian suggesting otherwise demonstrates in their beliefs that they are, in fact, not followers of the God of Judaism, and thus, not followers of Jesus.

This default picture of extreme parties having it out against their mirror opposites is a product of the common view that the NT authors represent such binary conflict. While I do not doubt that James and Matthew would have liked to punch Paul in the face (and vica versa), there seems to be evidence that there were “bipartisan” groups, who viewed the extremist’s as valid in their own way.

Finding this voice of a middle group is not always easy, for it is buried beneath the voice of its louder opponents. Nevertheless, it seems that we first hear of such a mediating view from Barnabas (late first–early second c.).

For Barnabas, the Jews never obtained the covenant. Just when they were about to receive it, they permanently lost it when Moses smashed the stone tablets on the ground. From that point on, according to Barnabas, the covenant was established for the Christians (4.6–8). “Christian” for Barnabas is strictly of a non-Jewish persuasion. In fact, to believe otherwise––that is, to believe that the Jews qua Jews also receive the covenant––is sinful. He writes:

Watch yourselves now and do not become like some people by piling up your sins, saying that the covenant is both theirs [Jews] and ours [Gentiles]. (4.6)

This statement reveals to us that there was a group of believers––whether of Jewish or Gentile origin––who believe that the Jesus movement is not an either/or but (perhaps) a both/and. In other words, there are some who do not see Jesus as a divisive line between Jews and Gentiles, but rather, Jesus was a mediator of a shared covenant.

This mediating position emerges again later in the second century in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. In the middle of Justin’s defense of the virgin birth, Trypho retorts:

Let you who are of Gentile origin…who are all named Christians after Christ, profess him to be Lord and Christ and God, as the Scriptures signify. But we Jews, who adore the God who made him, are not obliged to confess or worship him. (64.1)

Despite Justin’s excoriating response to Trypho’s inability to understand his argument, Justin is fairly “flexible” in what he views as acceptable conduct for Jewish converts to Christianity. For instance, when Trypho asks whether a Jew who confesses Jesus to be the Messiah and yet continues to observe the Mosaic Law, would still be saved, Justin responds:

In my opinion…I say such a man will be saved, unless he exerts every effort to influence other men [Gentiles]…to practice the same rites as himself, informing them that they cannot be saved unless they do so. (47.1)

Justin then speaks of “some Christians who boldly refuse to have conversation or meals with such persons [Jewish-Christian law observers]” (47.2); thus, showing that there was diversity in Gentile Christianity about the validity of Law observance for Jewish Christians. For Gentile Christians who observe the Mosaic Law, Justin is uncertain of their final outcome. For these, he can only say that they “will probably be saved” (v. 3). Finally, Justin states what he assumes to be the correct (“orthodox”) belief of the time, that Jews or Gentiles who only practice Jewish Law and deny Jesus, forfeit salvation (v. 4). There is no uncertainty in Justin’s tone here. Justin’s uncompromising tone (and the fact that he brings the issue up at all) suggests that there were Jews and/or Gentiles who argued that the “covenant is both theirs and ours” (Barn 4.6). In other words, it seems that Justin is reacting against a group who believes that Jesus is good for the Gentiles, Moses is good for the Jews, and both are from God; thus, both are acceptable.

At the beginning of the fourth century we find a text that stands between the extremes. The author/editor of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions appears to be a Jewish Christian and sees no conflict between Jesus and the Torah or Moses. He writes:

If anyone has been thought worthy to recognize by himself both [i.e., Moses and Jesus] as preaching one doctrine, that one has been counted rich in God, understanding both the old things as new in time and the new things as old. (Hom. 8.7; cf. Rec. 4.5)

From this selection, the author/editor is similar to Matthew, in that Jesus is the like Moses and speaks and teaches in harmony with Moses. However, in the Recognitions we find a flexibility that we do not see in Matthew. In Matthew, those who reject Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah will be damned at judgment. In the Recognitions we read:

By which it is certainly declared, that the people of the Hebrews, who were instructed out of the law, did not know him [Jesus]; but the people of the Gentiles have acknowledged Jesus, and venerate him; on which account also they shall be saved, not only acknowledging him, but also doing his will. But he who is of the Gentiles, and who has it of God to believe Moses, ought also to have it of his own purpose to love Jesus. And again, the Hebrew, who has it of God to believe Moses, ought to have it also of his own purpose to believe in Jesus; so that each of them having in himself something of the divine gift, and something of his own exertion, may be perfect by both. (Rec. 5.5)

For the author/editor of the Recognitions, each group “ought” to recognize the validity of the other, but it is not commanded. It would seem that, for this author, the Gentiles are in good standing if they do not acknowledge Moses and the Law and the Jews are in good standing if they do not acknowledge Jesus. Perfection, though, is attained when the extreme parties acknowledge the beliefs and traditions of the other as acceptable before God.

I can only imagine that this group found itself getting beat over the head by both extremes (similar to the way bipartisan candidates today receive criticism from both Republican and Democrats). In the end, the extreme groups are often the loudest and most prolific in writing; thus, we find ourselves inundated with literature from the extreme parties. Perhaps, though, the best way to see the legitimacy of the work of God is through the eyes of the author/editor of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, who views the extreme factions as factions and perfection is attained when these factions cease and harmony among God’s people is realized.