I will return to some possible improvements in the blog (not just in raising money from it) soon. today, though, I want to return to my book After the New Testament. Just yesterday I finished reading the page proofs for it, by working through the 98-page chapter on early Christian apocrypha (selections of non-canonical Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses: great stuff, but a lot of reading!). I celebrated with a cigar in Wimbledon Park in the late afternoon sunshine. Life could be worse.
As I indicated before, I’ve added two entirely new sections to this anthology of ancient texts, one on Women in Early Christianity (the Introduction of which I have given, over the course of two posts) and one on “Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church.” I think this latter is an intriguing, and a highly important, topic. Here is what I say in the Introduction to it in the second edition of the book, with a brief bibliography that follows.
As we observed in chapter 9, the Bible was important from the very beginnings of the early Christian movement. Whatever else the historical Jesus may have been – charismatic holy man, Jewish cynic philosopher, political revolutionary, apocalyptic prophet – he was certainly a Galilean Jew who was deeply committed to the Jewish Scriptures, and he was fundamentally understood by his followers to have been an interpreter of the Bible. In fact, he was the interpreter par excellence, the one whose understanding of the Torah of God could show the way to ultimate salvation.
The importance of interpreting Scripture continued on after Jesus’ death as his followers soon began to believe that he himself had come as the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, that in fact the entire point of the Jewish Bible was to point forward to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the fore-ordained goal of all God’s promises to his chosen people, beginning with Moses. Scriptural interpretation played a highly significant role in the ministry and writings of our earliest Christian author, Paul, who, although he was writing to Christians who had converted not out of the Jewish tradition but out of paganism, nonetheless appealed to the writings of Scripture to justify his understanding of the gospel. For Paul, Christ was not only the fulfillment of the Law given to Moses, he also brought an end to that Law – at least to its utility for the purposes of salvation (Rom. 10:4). But somewhat ironically, Paul insisted that this advocacy of salvation apart from the Law is precisely what the Law itself taught (Rom. 3:21, 31).
In many ways Paul…
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