September 6, 2016

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September 5, 2016

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September 4, 2016

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September 3, 2016

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September 2, 2016

BEN: You go on to compare and contrast the Stoic ethics of a Musonius Rufus with that we find in Paul and elsewhere in the NT, and you make the valid point, I think, that the Stoic teacher is offering a sort of ethic for ascetical athletes that are his understudies, not for everyone, whereas the ethic of Paul is a community ethic. But isn’t the early Jewish ethic of say Philo also a community wide ethic? How different is… Read more

September 1, 2016

BEN: In your discussion in the last full chapter of the book, talking about the differences in behavior between Christians and non-Christians, I notice that you do not discuss the pacifism of the early Christians, namely their refusal to serve in the Roman military, or any army for that matter, based on a certain reading of Jesus’ teachings. That surely would have been a distinctive practice. I agree that this practice was probably in part based on the concern about… Read more

August 31, 2016

BEN: The more I think about what is truly distinctive about earliest Christianity, which helps explain all the other things you are pointing to, including the bookishness of the group, it is that these early Christians were on a mission to redeem the world, both Jew and Gentile. They believed the world was lost, and they believed they had been commissioned to evangelize the whole known world, starting from Jerusalem. While other features of early Christianity are distinctive, but not… Read more

August 30, 2016

BEN: Talk to us about the quote of Tertullian from the end of the chapter. Is this really the beginnings of ‘religious identity should be a matter of personal choice’? Is it also, as Judge suggests, the beginning of the notion of the secular as distinguished from the sacred, including secular identity? LARRY: In a sense, perhaps, yes. If you de-link “religious identity” from your ethnic identity, civic identity, etc., then the latter is on its way to becoming a… Read more

August 29, 2016

BEN: In the third chapter your main point seems to be that early Christians were distinctive in that they tried to establish a religious identity separable from one’s ethnic identity, and even more distinctive asked for exclusive devotion to their deity. Of course the latter was also true of Jews, and the former was true of Isis worshippers around the Empire, which was not tied to a particular Egyptian ethnic identity either. So maybe the term, ‘somewhat distinctive’ would be… Read more

August 28, 2016

BEN: Let’s consider for a moment a comparison of the Qumranites and the earliest followers of Jesus, meaning Jewish Christians like James, Peter, and Paul. These two early Jewish movements were definitely sectarian in ways that say the Pharisees were not. For them both, if you were not part of ‘their’ in- group with their beliefs and practices, then you were not properly worshipping God, or as Paul dramatically puts it, Jews like that have been temporarily broken off from… Read more

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