Desiderata III: Prosopography of Individuals in Early Christian Literature in the First Three Centuries CE

In reading through some accounts of martyrs in the second and third centuries for a graduate colloquium recently, it struck me that it would be useful to have a prosopographical tool covering the literature and material remains of Christians for the first three centuries or so. As far as I can see, such a tool doesn’t currently exist, but I would be grateful if someone could point me in its direction if one does exist.

There are various prosopographical dictionaries of the later period, like the multi-volume Prosopographie chrétienne, which is arranged geographically and takes its start on the whole from the fourth century. There are also a few partial examples that supply an excellent example of how one might approach the task: Richard Bauckham, “Prosopography of the Jerusalem Church,” and Reidar Hvalvik, “Prosopography of Jewish Believers Connected with Paul and His Mission” in their contributions to the edited collection, Jewish Believers in Jesus. Or again, Jörg Rüpke’s Fasti Sacerdotum: A Prosopography of Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Religious Officials in the City of Rome, 300 BC to AD 499. Jeremiah Coogan rightly mentions to me Preisigke’s Namenbuch which covers some of this territory as well.

But I think none of these quite does what I have in mind. Ideally someone with a digital humanities bent could make this an online, open-access database. Anyone?



Oxford New Testament Seminar, Trinity Term 2015

Markus Bockmuehl has sent along the programme for the Trinity Term NT Seminar. As ever, local friends more than welcome to attend (PDF here).

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Ernst Barnikol archives on Bruno Bauer

In reading Owen Chadwick’s magisterial book, The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century, I came across a reference to a ‘vast, sprawling’ unpublished biography of the radical critic and friend of Marx, Bruno Bauer, by Ernst Barnikol (who had also written on FC Baur, among other things). The International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam now has Barnikol’s papers, including the long manuscript of his ‘Bruno Bauer. Darstellung und Quellen’ (Collection ID: ARCH00022).. This work was never published in full, given its length, but certain extracts were published posthumously in Bruno Bauer: Studien und Materialien, edited by P. Reimer and Hans-Martin Sass (Assen: van Gorcum, 1972) under the auspices of the IISH, although that volume is now long out of print. Bruno Bauer is a figure of continuing interest to theologians, social theorists and historians, for his radical Hegelianism, his associations with Karl Marx, his role as most prominent of the Dutch ‘radical critics’ of the New Testament, and his ‘atheistic theology’. And Ernst Barnikol has writtenwritten penetrating studies of the German tradition of idealist theology and philosophy.

So I wrote to the IISH to ask whether they would ever think of digitizing the work, given that digital space constraints weigh less heavily than print constraints. I’ve just heard back that they would in principle be open to doing so (and thus effectively making Barnikol’s whole manuscript available as a free e-book), but given their workload, they would need external funding of around 3000 EUR (a little over $3200 by today’s exchange rate) to have someone digitize the 4,000 pages or so of the archives. So, while it seems unlikely, if anyone wants to invest in making Barnikol’s work freely available, or knows of another good way to get a few thousand euro for the project, please let me know.


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Unpublished Hebrew and Aramaic fragments from Oxyrhynchus

In the first, Mohr Siebeck printing of my book, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy, I erroneously spoke in a footnote of ‘thousands’ of Hebrew and Aramaic fragments from Oxyrhynchus, on the basis of an unsubstantiated remark I heard someone connected with the collection make during a papyrology seminar. After the fact, I checked with Prof. Peter Parsons and the actual number is much lower, so I revised for the Baker Academic reprint (my apologies for the error in the first printing!). Since I had some recent correspondence with someone over the question on the basis of the first printing, I thought it might be useful to share what the actual state of affairs is here. And perhaps if some Hebrew papyrologist tires of the last fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Cairo Genizah, they can take up the surviving bits from Oxyrhynchus? Here are the relevant bits excerpted from my correspondence with Prof. Parsons following my query:

[first email]:
I will check the inventory,  and also whether any of the unpublished material has been assigned for publication (I remember discussing the matter with Sebastian Brock,  and more recently with David Taylor).  …[there] is not so much a question of the number of fragments as of their extent and quality – witness Cowley’s disappointment with the Hebrew pieces that he published in 1915 (now in Bodley),  which he found valuable only for their palaeography.  Add the difficulty that the preliminary inventory will have been made by classical scholars who could recognise the script but not understand the content.  Anyway, I’ll see what I can find out,  and be in touch again shortly.

[second email]:
I’ve now looked at the inventory.  One must make allowance for the ignorance of the cataloguers,  but as things stand only c. 30 items are classified as ‘Hebrew’ or occasionally as ‘Hebrew or Aramaic’ (nothing unequivocally ‘Aramaic’).  Of these c. 25 are described as ‘scraps’,  the rest as ‘fragments’;  of the fragments only one is identified,  as part of a Hebrew account.  This doesn’t seem promising,  even if you are already expert in Hebrew palaeography;  on normal experience,  small fragments take a lot of blood and sweat without any guarantee of interesting results.

So hopefully this helps a bit to set the record straight after the erroneous information I supplied in the first edition of my book.

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Reading Scripture in the Messianic Community

I’ve also just had word that my Macbride Sermon (one of Oxford’s so-called University Sermons) has been published in Expository Times. The sermon must be on ‘the application of messianic prophecy’ and it posed an interesting challenge. As ever, I’m happy to send an offprint to anyone without access to the journal.

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The Paratextual Invention of the Term ‘Apostolic Fathers’

When did the ‘apostolic fathers’ become a thing? There’s been a minor debate about that question, and I’ve managed to throw my two cents into the discussion about Cotelier’s role in that affair – a debate that Ehrman calls ‘rather pointless’. It’s in a short note just released in advance access form in JTS called ‘The Paratextual Invention of the Term “Apostolic Fathers”‘.

The abstract reads:

The origin of the term ‘apostolic fathers’ has been the subject of some debate. This note examines the extant bindings of Cotelier’s 1672 edition of the collection to suggest that the term first arises as a paratextual shortening of his title by readers, booksellers, and librarians, and from there enters into common usage.

If anyone would like to read a copy but doesn’t have access to JTS, please drop me an email and I’ll be happy to share with you a PDF offprint.


Hilary Term 2015 New Testament Seminar Programme

The programme for the Oxford NT Seminar this term is now available, courtesy of Markus Bockmuehl:

Hilary Term 2015 New Testament Seminar

HT 2015 NT Seminar

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