Bill Heroman, Christoph Markschies, and the “Great Man Theory”

As a way of wishing Bill Heroman a happy birthday, this post will focus on a topic that he has discussed at length, namely the so-called “Great Man Theory.” I’ve chosen to combine the perspectives of Heroman and Markschies, because I think they approach the topic from two fascinating angles. Neither wishes to defend this rightly discredited theory of course but rather to enable us to think about it more precisely. In short, Heroman unpacks its mnemonic advantages, while Markschies shows how its emphasis on the role played by talented individuals contains an element of truth when considered in relation to the dynamics of institutionalization. Let me give a sense of each of their contributions by including several key quotations from Heroman’s multi-part blog series on “Heroic Histories” (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, recap of 1-6, 7) and a single quotation from Markschies’s book Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire.

Key Quotations from Heroman:

Heroic Histories, 1: From a reception standpoint, therefore, while the so-called “great man theory” (henceforth a.k.a. “the hero-centered view of history”, or “the hero-driven theory of history”, or for short perhaps just “heroic history”) remains impossible to defend as either objective or accurate, it has nevertheless gone deeply under-appreciated by professional historians, who should at least feel duty-bound to explain its perennial appeal. Most importantly, we may have all overlooked the mnemonic advantages heroic histories provide in their oversimplifications.

Heroic Histories, 6: The primary advantage of Biography, for delivering rememberable story-structure, is that the ultimate human contingencies (birth & death) guarantee the reader a stable continuity in discourse, with both consistent orientation on a single subject (stable content) and an implicitly overarching chronological timeline (stable structure). That’s why a comprehensive life story’s fabula/discourse dynamic is unique among narrative genres and styles.

Heroic Histories Recap: So far, this series has made two major points. First, Heroic History is a common literary tactic because it offers significant mnemonic advantages for remembering the past. But second – and perhaps more importantly – Plot isn’t everything. Memorable stories also cohere strongly around Character.

Key Quotation from Markschies (English and German):

CTaiI (p. 26): Thus, when the term “Institution” is used to consider not only the hierarchically structured majority church but first and foremost all social structures that establish stability and duration, then the focus on the “great men”—which characterizes the traditional writing of church history and is [often] so problematic from an epistemic methodological perspective—obtains a good sense as well: institutionalization can only succeed when, in addition to a new idea, there are also “talented individuals” who endeavor to obtain a social basis for its establishment. Whether we know all these individuals and whether they were only male is naturally a completely different question that is also difficult to answer for the second and third centuries.

KCTuiI (p. 37): Wenn also mit dem Terminus “Institution” hier nicht nur die hierarchisch strukturierte christliche Mehrheitskirche in den Blick genommen werden soll, sondern zunächst einmal alle sozialen Gebilde, die Stabilität und Dauer etablieren, dann bekommt auch der wissenschaftsmethodisch oft so problematische Blick auf die “großen Männer”, der traditionelle Kirchengeschichtsschreibung prägt, einen guten Sinn: Institutionaliserung kann ja nur gelingen, wenn es neben einer neuen Idee auch “talentierte Individuen” gibt, die sich um eine soziale Basis zu ihrer Durchsetzung bemühen. Ob wir alle diese Individuen kennen und ob es nur Männer waren, ist natürlich eine ganz andere Frage, die für das zweite und dritte Jahrhundert auch nur sehr schwer beantwortet werden kann.

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Bibliographies of Neutestamentler/innen in the German Language Sphere

For the most up-to-date version of BNGLS, see here.

As a new feature for this blog, I have spent the last two weeks compiling Bibliographies of Neutestamentler/innen in the German Language Sphere (BNGLS). This task has greatly expanded my own understanding of what is going on in the German-speaking world, and I hope it will also prove beneficial for others who are seeking to engage with the ‘German’ tradition. A distinctive feature of this new resource is that I have provided a separate bibliography of the English publications of each German-language-sphere scholar as well as a link to their full bibliographies, webpages, academia.edu pages etc. For the bibliographies themselves see the BNGLS tab of my blog or click here.

Francis Watson, Christoph Markschies, and the ‘Canon’ of Clement of Alexandria

Like my post on Francis Watson, Jens Schröter, and the Sayings Collection Genre of the Gospel of Thomas, today’s post belongs to the “I’d like to see someone else write about this” genre. In other words, I am writing it with the hope that it will stimulate someone to explore the matter further in the form of a class paper, conference paper, or article. In short, I think it would make an interesting project to compare what Francis Watson and Christoph Markschies say about Clement of Alexandria’s ‘canon’ in Gospel Writing and Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire with a view to the place assigned to Clement in their overall conceptions. As an invitation to explore this topic further, I have chosen one quotation relating to a specific point that they interpret differently and one quotation that sheds light on how Clement fits within their overall conception. And I’ve now added an extra quotation from Markus Bockmuehl for good measure!

Quotation 1: Clement’s Knowledge of the Gospel of the Egyptians

Markschies (CTaiI, 240-41): “If one reviews the citations from this writing in Clement of Alexandria, then it is conspicuous that Clement hardly has a detailed knowledge of the content of this text and thus evidently has not even read it in its entirety: φέρεται δέ, οἶμαι, ἐν τῷ κατ’ Αἰγυπτίους εὐαγγελίῳ; “But (these words) stand, so I believe, in the Gospel of the Egyptians”.

Markschies (KcTuiI, 271): “Mustert man nun die Zitate aus dieser Schrift bei Clemens Alexandrinus, so fällt auf, daß Clemens kaum näher kennt und ihn daher offensichtlich gar nicht zur Gänze gelesen hat: φέρεται δέ, οἶμαι, ἐν τῷ κατ’ Αἰγυπτίους εὐαγγελίῳ; “(Diese Worte) stehen aber, wie ich glaube, im Ägypterevangelium”.

Watson (GW,  425-426): “Clement’s allegorical interpretation is occasioned by his opponents’ similarly allegorical interpretation of another saying derived from the same source … It is, however, Clement, not Cassianus, who identifies GEgy as the source both of the Salome passage cited earlier and of the independent but thematically related saying cited here… In spite of his modest disclaimer, “I believe,” Clement has independent access to GEgy and can therefore cite the remainder of the Salome dialogue on his own initiative and not in response to Cassianus”

Bockmuehl (Ancient Apocryphal Gospels, 211): “Clement’s awareness and use of at least excerpts of the text necessitates a date before the 190s, but it is difficult to be more specific. Because every one of Clement’s eight quotations from this work expresses the theme of a distinctly ascetical hostility to sexuality and procreation, he himself may only have known this work in the form of a thematic (and possibly already antiheretical?) collection of such excerpts, rather than as now preserved. (Cf. similarly Markschies 2012d, 666, 672).

Quotation II: Clement’s Place in the History of the Canon

Watson (GW, 435-436): Clement’s citational practice represents a moment of transition between the earlier nonspecific appeal to “the gospel” and the emergence of four “gospels” differentiated by the names of their purported authors. Yet there is no consciousness of innovation in his single Irenaeus-like reference to “the four gospels handed down to us,” nor is it explained how this “handing down” has taken place or how it differentiates one set of gospel texts from others. One factor may simply be relative familiarity… As  ever some books achieve a wide circulation whereas others are known only within limited circles or areas. If, hypothetically, two gospel texts are popular in Alexandria whereas only one of them is known in Rome, then the consensus about the one will seem to give it an ecclesial sanction that the other lacks. The fourfold gospel is an attempt to articulate, formalize, and enforce a convergence around a common usage. Clement himself articulates this perceived convergence, but shows no interest in formalizing or enforcing it. Indeed, he refers to it only in passing and in a single passage that does not reflect his citation practice as a whole. Nevertheless, an emerging trend may retrospectively be identified in this single passage, especially if we look back at Clement and his contemporaries from the perspective of Eusebius, the first great historian of the Christian canon.

Markschies (CTuiI, 245; cf. 246): We can now summarize our observations on Clement of Alexandria: it can scarcely be disputed that this highly educated free teacher used a ‘canon,’ a normed collection of authoritative biblical texts, as the corpus from which he derived his fundamental axioms. Therefore, it appears to be precisely not the case that Clement represents a vague concept of the biblical and New Testament ‘canon.’ Rather, he deals in a relatively great scope with divinely inspired writings but distinguishes once more from these a narrower ‘canon’ of especially inspired biblical texts. One should not designate such a concept of graded canonicity as “vague” but exactly the opposite, as particularly considered.

Markschies (KcTuiI, 276; cf. 277): Nun können wir unsere Beobachtungen zu Clemens Alexandrinus zusammenfassen: Es läßt sich schwer bestreiten, daß dieser hoch gebildete freie Lehrer einen ‘Kanon’, eine normierte Sammlung autoritativer biblischer Texte als dasjenige Corpus nutzte, dem er seine fundamentalen Axiome entnahm. Es scheint daher gerade nicht so, daß Clemens ein vages Konzept des biblischen und neutestamentlichen ‘Kanons’ vertritt, sondern einerseits in relativ großem Umfang mit göttlich inspirierten Schriften rechnet, davon aber noch einmal einen engeren ‘Kanon’ besonders inspirierter biblischer Texte unterscheidet. Ein solches Konzept gestufter Kanonizität sollte man nicht als “vage”, sondern gerade im Gegenteil als besonders reflektiert bezeichnen.

For my other Watsonposts, see here.

For my other Markschiesposts, see here.

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

Christoph Markschies and the Publication of Christian Theology and Its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (BMSEC 3)

MarkschiesCoverSmall

As a way of celebrating the publication of this year’s BMSEC volume, Christian Theology and Its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Prolegomena to a History of Early Christian Theology (cf. here!), today’s “German scholars” post is devoted to Christoph Markschies (cf. here), Professor of Ancient Christianity (Patristics) at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

For my other posts on this book, see here.

For my other “German scholars” posts, see here.

I. Excerpt Selected by Christoph Markschies

English Translation (page xvii-xix): By paying attention to the institutional contexts, I aim to avoid having only isolated segments of ancient Christianity come into view in this book, for example, by considering only a type of theology (e.g., the type that refers to the frames of reference of Platonic philosophy and shapes western Christian theology to some extent up to the present) or only a single region (Rome or precisely not Rome, depending on the confessional form) or only a certain social milieu (e.g., the social standing of those supported by communities and Christian teachers working in their educational institutions). For this reason, in the first main section of this book, I have especially directed my attention to the different institutional contexts in which Christian theologies were developed in the second and third centuries CE. I have investigated the development and change of such institutions and given consideration to public situations of communication—namely, pagan and Christian school contexts—but also, for example, the conditions at the great imperial and private estates. The differences and commonalities between Christian and pagan institutions are also dealt with, at least in the form of an overview.

German Version (pages 2-3): Durch die Beachtung der institutionellen Kontexte sollte vermieden werden, daß in diesem Buch nur Segmente des antiken Christentums isoliert in den Blick geraten, indem z.B. nur ein Typus von Theologie berücksichtigt wird (etwa der, der sich auf den Referenzrahmen platonischer Philosophie bezieht und in gewisser Weise bis heute abendländische christliche Theologie prägt) oder nur eine Region (je nach konfessioneller Ausprägung: Rom bzw. gerade nicht Rom) oder nur ein bestimmtes soziales Milieu (etwa der Stand von Gemeinden besoldeten und in deren Ausbildungseinrichtungen tätigen christlichen Lehrer). Deswegen habe ich in einem ersten Hauptteil dieses Buches mein Augenmerk besonders auf die unterschiedlichen institutionellen Kontexte zu richten versucht, in denen im zweiten und dritten nachchristlichen Jahrhundert christliche Theologien entwickelt wurden, habe die Entwicklung und Veränderung solcher Institutionen untersucht und öffentliche Kommunikationssituationen, pagane wie christliche Schulzusammenhänge, aber z.B. auch die Verhältnisse auf den großen kaiserlichen und privaten Landgütern in den Blick genommen. Auch die Unterschiede und Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen christlichen und paganen Institutionen werden wenigstens im Überblick behandelt“.

II. Biographical-bibliographical information

For Christoph Markschies’s publications, see here (English), here (complete), and here (academia.edu).

For audio-video material of Markschies, see here.

The following two paragraphs have been taken from Prof. Markschies’s webpage:

Research: “Ancient Christianity” with a particular focus on the intellectual history and history of ideas (history of Trinitarian theology), the marginalised movements of the majority church (so-called Gnosticism and Montanism), the transformation of the (Platonic) philosophy in Christian theology and the history of the body in Ancient Christianity within the context of other religions and movements. – The academic history of the discipline with a special focus on the Berlin faculty and the Academy of Sciences.

Academic Biography: Born in 1962 in Berlin, Christoph Markschies studied Protestant Theology, Classical Philology and Philosophy in Marburg, Jerusalem, Munich and Tübingen. He qualified in 1991 as Dr. theol., attained his habilitation in 1994 and, following professorships in Jena (1994-2000) and Heidelberg (2000-2004), has been Professor for Ancient Christianity at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2004. He was President of this university from 2006 to 2010 and has been Vice-President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of the Sciences and Humanities since 2012. He was awarded the Leibniz Prize in 2001.

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Defining Institutions with Christoph Markschies

I was extremely happy this week to submit my completed translation of Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der antiken christlichen Theologie / Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Prolegomena to a History of Early Christian TheologyThis translation has proven to be an especially challenging and rewarding project and I very much look forward to its publication in October 2015. Today’s key quotation from this book is related to one of its most important features, namely its sustained focus on institutions (see here for my other posts on this book, and here for audio recordings and videos of Christoph Markschies)

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the selective grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (wmc): While they [Harnack and Mommsen] tied the concept of institutions to the legal norming of societal forms of order, I wish to take the definition—which stands in the tradition of Arnold Gehlen—of the Dresden special research area “Institutionalität und Geschichtlichkeit” (institutionality and historicality) as a basis for the following chapters of this monograph: institutions are defined there as “social arrangements that outwardly and inwardly effectively suggest and bring into force stability and duration” and in which especially “the action-guiding and communication-directing foundations of an order are always also symbolically brought to expression”. In my view, such a concept of institutions is shown, despite all its problems, to be considerably more practicable for the portrayal of an emerging religion than the legally colored definition from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen (pp. 33-34): Während diese [Harnack und Mommsen] den Institutionenbegriff an die rechtliche Normierung von gesellschaftlichen Ordnungsgestalten banden, möchte ich für die folgenden Kapitel dieser Monographie die in der Tradition von Arnold Gehlen stehende Definition des Dresdner Sonderforschungsbereichs “Institutionalität und Geschichtlichkeit” zugrundelegen: Dort definiert man Institutionen als “soziale Arrangements, die nach außen und innen Stabilität und Dauer erfolgreich suggerieren und zur Geltung bringen” und in denen insbesondere “die handlungsleitenden und kommunikationssteuernden Grundlagen einer Ordnung immer auch symbolisch zum Ausdrck gebracht werden”. Ein solcher offener Institutionenbegriff erweist sich ungeachtet aller seiner Probleme meines Erachtens für die Darstellung einer im Entstehen befindlichen Religion als wesentlich praktikabler als der juristisch gefärbte vom Anfang des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts.

* The quoted material comes from G. Mellville and P. von Moss, “Gleitwort.” Page V in Das Öffentliche und Private in der Vormoderne (1998)

Selective grammatical analysis: Let me limit my comments today to a single point, namely the challenge of translating the word Normierung, which Markschies frequently employs in this volume and elsewhere. Given the difficulty and importance of this term, I explain my translation of this word in the preface as follows: “One particularly difficult point of translation may be mentioned here, namely the translation of the terms Normierung(en), Normierungsprozesse, normieren, and normiert. With a view to English speech conventions, I considered using the language of ‘standardization(s), standardization processes, standardize, and standardized’ for this set of terms. Since, however, Markschies’s word choice places the emphasis on the setting of a norm in general, with the result that the language of ‘standardization’ is likely to convey an overly limited impression of what is in view, I decided instead to render these terms in a more wooden fashion as ‘norming(s) or norm-setting(s), norming processes, norm, and normed.’ I realize, of course, that not all will agree with this translation decision, but I hope that this note helps to clarify my reasons for proceeding in this manner.

Substantive analysis: in a similar manner as Jens Schröter’s volume From Jesus to the New Testament, Christoph Markschies’ work effectively combines methodological sophistication and penetrating interaction with primary sources and this combination is one of the features of their respective works that I find especially attractive. Accordingly, I hope that I will be able to show in future posts how Markschies’ open definition of institutions can illuminate our reading of early Christian texts and our conceptualizations of early Christianity. For now, I will simply note that his adoption of an open definition of institutions allows him to apply this term to more phenomena than is the case for definitions that focus on the legal norming of societal forms of order.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.

Christoph Markschies on Portraying the History of Theology as a One-Way Street

Since I am now pressing toward the submission of my translation of Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der antiken christlichen Theologie / Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Prolegomena to a History of Early Christian Theology, it seemed fitting to include an excerpt from this work as today’s key quotation.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

I. Translation and German Original

Christian Theology and Its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Many classical and present-day portrayals of the history of Christian theology describe the path of Christian theology as a kind of one-way street … I wish to designate this hermeneutical model as a “one-way street” because it basically starts implicitly from the present organizational form of scholarly theological reflection at universities and reconstructs the development of the history of theology from this endpoint as teleology. … Such a teleology, which—as indicated—starts implicitly from the present form of theological reflection, which is oriented to philosophical standards of rationality as its norm, must almost inevitably marginalize other forms of theological reflection as unimportant byways or even as unfruitful dead ends—and it is then left to general ecclesial or even societal trends to discover the relevance of these alleged byways and dead ends.

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: (pp. 11-12): Viele klassische und aktuelle Darstellungen der christlichen Theologiegeschichte beschreiben den Weg der christlichen Theologie als eine Art von Einbahnstraße … Als „Einbahnstraße“ möchte ich dieses hermeneutische Modell bezeichnen, weil es im Grunde implizit von der gegenwärtigen Organisationsgestalt wissenschaftlicher theologischer Reflexion an Universitäten ausgeht und von diesem Endpunkt her die Entwicklung der Theologiegesichchte als Teleologie rekonstruiert. … Eine solche Teleologie, die – wie gesagt – implizit von der heutigen, an philosophischen Rationalitätsstandards orientierten Form von theologischer Reflexion als Norm ausgeht, muß nahezu zwangsläufig andere Formen von theologischer Reflexion als unwichtigere Seitenwege oder gar als unfruchtbare Sackgassen marginalisieren – und es bleibt dann allgemeinen kirchlichen oder gar gesellschaftlichen Modeströmungen vorbehalten, die Relevanz dieser angeblichen Seitenwege und Sackgassen zu entdecken.

II. Select grammatical analysis

One of the first lessons learned in German is that the verb occupies the second position in a sentence, which requires some clarification. It does not mean that the verb is always the second word but that it occurs as the second element in a sentence. Here, the first element is the rather lengthy phrase Viele … Darstellungen … der … Theologiegeschichte, which forms the subject of the verb beschreiben. I considered translating wissenschaftlicher as “academic” in this context, but stuck with “scholarly” in view of its broader associations (for further discussion of the translation of Wissenschaft/wissenschaftliche, see here).  As usual, the participial modifier an … orientierten in the phrase von der heutigen, an philosophischen Rationalitätsstandards orientierten Form von theologischer Reflexion has to be transformed into a relative clause: from the present form of theological reflection, which is oriented to philosophical standards of rationality

III. Substantive analysis

At first glance, it may seem surprising that Markschies structures the argument of the second major section of his book around three rather different institutional contexts, namely The Free Teachers and Christian Schools (2.1), The Montanist Prophets and their Circle (2.2), and The Christian Worship Service and its Prayers (2.3). Against the background of this programmatic key statement, however, his logic becomes much clearer. In short, once one has become conscious of the extent to which the “one-way street model” has influenced one’s approach to the material, it becomes evident that greater attention must be given to a diverse range of institutional contexts if one wishes to grasp something of the full range of the dynamics and forms that characterized the history of theology in the first centuries of Christianity.

For my other posts on Christoph Markschies, see here.

For a few audio recordings and videos of Christoph Markschies, see here.

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For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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For two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

 

T. Michael Law, Jens Schröter, and Christoph Markschies on the Muratorian Fragment

In a previous Law-Markschies-Origen post, I mentioned how much I had profited from reading T Michael Law’s book When God Spoke Greek in conjunction with my work translating Jens Schröter’s book Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament From Jesus to the New Testament and Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire, and I conveyed then my desire to devote a few more posts to a comparison of these works on select points. Continuing that discussion, this post will compare how these three works treat the question of the dating and character of the Muratorian Fragment. On the question of how to cite the Muratorian Fragment, see now SBL Handbook of Style Blog.

I. T. Michael Law

WGSG, p. 183n.9: “The Muratorian fragment should probably be dated later than the traditional second-century date.”

II. Jens Schröter

FJNT, p. 285n60: “I will not deal here with the question of the dating of the Muratorian Fragment, which has come under discussion since Sundberg 1968; 1973; as well as Hahnemann 1992. The attempt to date it late has not established itself, for which reason I continue to start from the traditional placement around 180-200. For fundamental criticism of the late dating, cf. Verheyden 2003. Cf. further Ferguson 1982; 1993; Stanton 2004, 68-71.”

VJNT, p. 310n60: “Auf die seit SUNDBERG, Revised History; Ders., Canon Muratori, sowie HAHNEMAN, Muratorian Fragment, in die Diskussion geratene Frage der Datierung des muratorischen Fragmens gehe ich hier nicht ein. Der Versuch der Spätdatierung hat sich nicht durchgesetzt, weshalb ich weiterhin von der traditionellen Ansetzung um 180-200 ausgehe. Zur grundsätzlichen Kritik der Spätdatierung vgl. VERHHEYDEN, The Canon Muratori. A Matter of Dispute, in: Auwers, Canons, 487-556. Vgl. Weiter FERGUSON, Canon Muratori; STANTON, Jesus and Gospel, 68-71, sowie die Rezension der Untersuchung Hahnemans von FERGUSON.”

Selective grammatical analysis: In translating “gehe ich hier nicht ein”, it seemed preferable to use the future with a view to English style. Likewise, “deal with” seemed to read better than “go into” in this case. Instead of “established itself” the verb “durchgesetzt” could alternatively be translated as “prevailed”.

III. Christoph Markschies

Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (wmc, forthcoming): “The text, which is better designated as Fragmentum Muratorianum or Muratori, is, in reality, not a “list” with a mere listing of biblical books at all, but a fragment without its original beginning and conclusion, which—if one considers its literary form—can be linked only with great difficulty to an ancient literary genre. … Whatever option one settles on, the most recent debate over the dating of the highly fragmented text should at least urge caution both for those who—like Harnack—see in the Fragmentum Muratori an official list translated from the Greek with which the Roman church in the second century wished to impose its conception of a canonical New Testament on to the Christianity of the empire and for those who are completely convinced of the late dating of the text. The majority of the arguments still speak for a dating around 200 CE, although the exact historical background and the precise literary form of the text remain unclear.”

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen (pp.  229 and 234; cf. 228-236): “Bei dem besser als Fragmentum Muratorianum bzw. Muratori bezeichneten Text handelt es sich in Wirklichkeit gar nicht um eine ‚Liste‘ mit der bloßen Aufzählung biblischer Bücher, sondern ein Fragment ohne seinen originalen Anfang und Schluß, das – betrachtet man seine literarische Form – nur sehr schwer mit einem antiken literarischen Genre zu verbinden ist. … Wie man auch immer optiert: Die jüngste Debatte über die Datierung des stark fragmentierten Textes sollte mindestens die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die – wie Harnack – im Fragmentum Muratori eine aus dem Griechischen übersetzte offizielle Liste sehen, mit der die römische Kirche im zweiten Jahrhundert ihre Vorstellung von eine kanonischen Neuen Testament in der Christenheit des Reiches imponieren wollte, oder von der Spätdatierung des Textes vollkommen überzeugt sind. Die Mehrzahl der Argumente spricht nach wie vor für eine Datierung um 200 n. Chr., obwohl der exakte historische Hintergrund und die präzise literarische Form des Textes unklar bleiben.”

Selective grammatical analysis: Instead of translating “Bei dem … Text … es geht um” as “In/With/In the case of … the text … it is a matter of/the concern is with/we are dealing with” I have adopted the simplifying translation “The text … is …” (for further discussion of the translation of Es geht um see here). The difficult phrase “nur schwer zu verbinden ist” has the force of “can be linked only with great difficulty”. I am uncertain how to translate “Wie man auch immer optiert”, but “Whatever option one settles on” is perhaps more precise than “whatever one decides”. Although the German version has “die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die … oder von …”, I have translated “oder” with “and” with a view to English style and repeated  “on those” in order to clarify the sense.

IV. Substantive Analysis:

For me, it seems that there are two points to draw from this post. First, while it seems to be the case that the majority of scholars continue to favor an early date for the Muratorian Fragment (ca. 180-200), it would probably go too far to speak of a “consensus” in relation to this point, since Sundberg, Hahnemann, T Michael Law, and other scholars have advocated a later date for this text. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the debate about the dating of the text should not be allowed to overshadow a second point of (perhaps greater and more significant) uncertainty, namely the uncertainty surrounding the classification of the genre or form of the text, which, due to its fragmentary character, arguably should not be classified too quickly as a “canon list”, which is not to say that this possibility should be ruled out too quickly either.

For other posts/links relating to the Muratorian canon, see e.g., Bart Ehrmann, C. E. HillLarry Hurtado, Michael Kruger.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.