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|Title:||The Constitution of Normative Understanding in Earliest Christianity, Especially as Evidenced in Pauline, Lucan-Synoptic, and Johannine Writings|
|Authors:||Meagher, Carney John|
|Abstract:||<p>The problem of orthodoxy and heresy in earliest Christianity, perennially interesting to historians of theology, has recently received a new wave of interest on the occasion of the revival of Walter Bauer's Rechtglaubigkeit and Ketzerei in gltesten Christentum. Part of the new interest is dedicated to assimilating Bauer's conclusions, which were not thoroughly absorbed at the time of the book's original publication: there was no "orthodoxy" in earliest Christianity, but only a variety of doctrinal positions; and "heresy" as a corruption of pure and uniform early doctrine is an anachronistic invention by partisans of the doctrine which eventually managed to acquire sufficient political strength to constitute itself as "orthodoxy." Another part of the interest in these questions derives from the difficulties raised for theology by critical history: the discrediting of earlier assumptions raises serious question about how theology is now to be validated. Its interest in its own authenticity motivates theology to look to the question of earliest normative belief.</p> <p>The most advanced modern scholarship now tends to accept Bauer's conclusions, and to assume that there could have been no orthodoxy in earliest Christianity because there was not yet a court of appeal through which orthodoxy could be distinguished from heterodoxy. But the latter assumption, although common among contemporary scholars, appears never to have been really tested. Granted that there was no procedure as clear and definitive as eventually came about in later times, it is wrong to suppose that there was none at all. The purpose of this study is to discover how earliest Christianity understood the constitution of its own thought. What was the early Christian sense of the way in which questions of normative understanding should be properly dealt with? How did earliest Christians think the Christian mind was made up?</p> <p>The main body of evidence by which these questions can be investigated consists in the documents gathered into the New Testament--particularly, on account of their size, scope, and historical importance, the Pauline letters, the works of Luke (and of his fellow synoptic evangelists), and the Fourth Gospel. The additional epistles of the Pauline and Johannine schools provide a further supplement to what is disclosed in these more substantive documents, and the other books of the New Testament (and the works of the Apostolic Fathers) reveal other parts of the early Christian spectrum. A careful consideration of these documents, searching for their authors' senses of what might be the constitution governing Christian thought (and their authors' senses of their addressees' suppositions) establishes the degree to which there was in fact a court of appeal implicit in early Christian understanding, the extent of agreement about where it was to be found, and the sense of how much it mattered. The study concludes with reflections on the implications of its results for both the historical and the theological fronts.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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