I am writing to oppose an anti-Christian tall tale that says the New Testament is full of Pagan ideas. There are several logical arguments against this popular anti-Christian slander. I want to concentrate here on just one source of good information. This post is to consider some of the evidence provided by St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians is my choice for this exercise because it has been overlooked but it sheds a lot of light that should be helpful in considering anti-Christian allegations. Thessalonians I is commonly acknowledged among historians, even anti-Christian historians, to be a genuine writing of Paul, and, crucial to my argument, the consensus among both Christian and anti-Christian scholars is that it may be dated from 51 or 52 AD. This provides a fatal flaw in theories about the “evolution” of Christian thinking over time.
Matters such as the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity are commonly alleged by anti-Christians to have developed over three or four generations, incorporating ideas from Pagan culture in the process. Nope.
“Nomen Sacrum” is the term used for certain abbreviations that are found in ancient manuscripts of the New Testament books. These abbreviations for the “sacred names” are well known by church historians, theologians and text critics but not much known outside of those circles. I thought that Christian Ratburghers would be interested in the way the earliest Christian scribes abbreviated the names for God and Jesus.
This post is a follow-up to my post last month, which was a book review of The Earliest Christian Artifacts, by Larry Hurtado. That book was a historian reporting on what he found when he spent some time speaking with the papyrologists who study the earliest New Testament manuscripts, and what he saw when he examined these precious fragments of early Christian culture.
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.
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.