SHENOUTE THE GREAT

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Who’s the odd man out: Ambrose, Patrick, John Chrysostom, Leo the Great, Shenoute? All were great Christian leaders who lived in the century after 350. But it’s a trick question, as there are two answers. One answer is “Patrick” as we have virtually nothing written by him, while the others all left copious literary remains. [Read More...]

What’s Present is Prologue to the Past

Jennifer Schuessler at the New York Times introduces cutting-edge historical scholarship to the masses. Last summer, she published a piece on Mormon history, and this past spring an article on scholarship about American capitalism followed (that piece discussed, among other books, Bethany Moreton’s To Serve God and Wal-Mart). Most recently, Schuessler introduced readers to recent [Read More...]

Do Christian Kids Need Christian Education?

This week’s post comes from the Anxious Bench archives. It is part of the new Patheos series “Passing On The Faith: Teaching The Next Generation.” There’s nothing like having school-age children to get you thinking about education. Yes, I went to college for eleven straight years (from B.A. to Ph.D.), and yes, I have taught at [Read More...]

HERACLEON

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Here’s a trivia question. Who wrote the first ever commentary on a piece of Christian scripture? The answer is quite surprising, and it says a lot about some of the diverse subcultures that existed within different parts of the Christian world Elaine Pagels earned fame through her 1979 book The Gnostic Gospels. Far less well [Read More...]

VALENTINUS THE EGYPTIAN

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Early Egyptian Christianity had a strong non-orthodox strand, if that “Gnostic” current did not actually dominate. I have already discussed the influence of Basilides, but Egypt produced an even more celebrated teacher in Valentinus. What makes him so interesting for a modern Christian audience is that he shows just how close the Gnostics were to [Read More...]

End Hymnal Wars

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Never agree to serve on a hymnal committee. First of all, if your church (like mine) is still using hymnals, that’s probably a sign that its membership (like mine) is aging and shrinking. Second, one can be certain that a new hymnal — or any new decision about congregational singing and music — will produce [Read More...]

The Religion of the 1950s

In American memory, the 1950s are often portrayed as a mundane, picturesque prelude to the chaotic, transformative decade that would follow.  Popular contemporary television portrayals of the decade such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), Father Knows Best (1954-1960) and Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963) helped create the stereotype of the 1950s as an idyllic period of domestic bliss, perpetuating it [Read More...]

Bible Wars and the Origins of the Term “Inerrancy”

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Andrew Wilson recently wrote a piece called “Why I Don’t Hate the Word ‘Inerrancy’.” He explains that when asked the street-level question, “Does the Bible contain mistakes?” I always answer, “When interpreted properly, no.” That first clause is important; after all, an awful lot of people in history have thought [Read More...]

BASILIDES AND THE BAPTISM

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I was discussing the theory that the oldest level of Egypt’s Christianity was very different from anything we would recognize as orthodoxy, and that the most prominent leaders were what we would call Gnostic. That theory can be advanced in extreme terms, so that basically there is no early orthodoxy. Even if we do not [Read More...]

THE EGYPTIAN MYSTERY

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I recently described the extraordinary position that Egypt held in early Christian history, when the country became the source of many ideas and institutions that would spread throughout the wider Christian world. Given that importance, it is really surprising that we know so very little about the early history of Egyptian Christianity, an ignorance that [Read More...]


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