You learned in school how the Egyptians took the pith from papyrus sedges and used it to make a writing product like paper. We study ancient Egyptian society because they were literate and left a lot of written records. Also, their dry climate preserves papyrus, so that Egypt has yielded a lot of ancient writings. This makes Egypt a favorite field of archaeological study.
Some of the most-studied artifacts of the ancient world are papyrus copies of New Testament books. Scholars study, debate, quarrel, and publish frequently regarding these precious bits of early Christian culture.
Christian “book culture”
There are some interesting things that can be learned about the early Christians from their manuscripts. This is to pass along a few things I have learned that may be of use to some of you.
A few weeks ago, in my “New religiongeschichtliche Schule” post, Hypatia made an observation that prompted this post. She observed that many people think that Jesus appeared at the time he did because God had devised a world in which the Gospel could spread rapidly and far and wide:
Christianity could not have arisen except out of the Jewish scriptures. Nor, I learned in my Bible class, could it have spread across the globe if it hadn’t arisen within the far-flung empire of Rome. That period was “ the fullness of time”.
I absolutely agree with this thinking, and want to make a few observations on point.
Religionsgeschichtliche Schule is a term that has dominated the study of Christianity in academic circles for 150 years. It is translated from the German as “History of Religions School.” In this case it means ‘school of thought’ rather than a physical place, and is a reference to a group of influential scholars. They are important because most of their core ideas are still going strong on the internet and are currently taught in the Religious Studies Departments of many universities.
A number of bad ideas got their start with the religionsgeschichtliche Schule, including “Pagan origins” of Bible stories and the idea that the divinity of Jesus developed late in the history of the Christian movement.
A colloquium was held at the University of Edinburgh a few weeks ago, titled “Varieties of Theism in Antiquity,” and amounted to a series of new scholarly papers presented by a group of academics who celebrate the countervailing views that have debunked the ideas of the original religionsgeschichtliche Schule.
The United Methodist Church Special Conference ended last week with a surprise victory for traditionalist Christians. You may have seen some celebrating in the conservative Christian blogosphere.
This is not a final victory; it represents one battle in the long war. Leftists marched through the institution of the United Methodist Church, and they still hold the high ground positions in UMC government. But they did not have the votes to push further Leftward at this Special Conference, and they are not likely to have the votes at the General Conference coming up in 2020. I am simply posting here for non-Methodist Christians who may be curious as to what is going on.... [Read More]