Today at the SBL
Early Christianity and the Ancient Economy 11/17/2012 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM Room: E260 - McCormick Place Theme: The Ancient Economy
The Name ‘Erastus’ in Antiquity: A Literary, Papyrical, and Epigraphical Catalog Timothy Brookins, Houston Baptist University
Abstract to be considered for the Second Project (First-Century Christianity and Ancient Economy): One of the most critical pieces in the debate about social stratification in the Corinthian church is that of the socio-economic profile of “Erastus,” whom Paul describes in Rom 16:23 as ho oikonomos tes poleos. Hot debate has surrounded this figure ever since the 1929 discovery of an ancient inscription bearing his name. Two portions of a paving slab situated east of the stage building of the Roman theatre together contain the inscription: “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid (the pavement) at his own expense (Erastus pro aedilitate s.p. stravit)” (Corinth VIII 232). Upon its discovery, the inscription immediately roused the interest of biblical scholars. If this was the same man as the Corinthian Christian named by Paul, it would have seismic ramifications for our understanding of the socio-economic composition of the early church, for the aedileship was one of the highest municipal offices in Corinth. Three questions have remained central to the debate: the date of the inscription, the nature of the office of oikonomos, and the frequency of the name “Erastus” in antiquity. Several recent articles have treated questions related to the date of the inscription and the nature of Erastus’ office (Goodrich 2010; Weiss 2010; Friesen 2010; Goodrich 2011). The present paper attempts to make a contribution with regard to the frequency of the name in antiquity. Moving beyond Meggitt’s earlier research (1996; 1999), this paper furnishes a comprehensive catalog of literary, papyrical, and epigraphical occurrences of the name (in Greek and in Latin) in antiquity. The payoff of the catalog is two-fold: (1) it provides, for the first time, comprehensive quantitative proof that the name was in fact rare; and (2) it reveals a chronological, geographical, and institutional distribution for the name which allows for a tantalizing new hypothesis regarding the social station of Paul’s Erastus.
Christianity in Egypt: Scripture, Tradition, and Reception 11/17/2012 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM Room: E260 - McCormick Place
Clairvoyance and Conflict: the Political Implications of Pachomius’s VisionsLance Jenott, Princeton University
In 345, a year before his death, the great monastic innovator Pachomius was hauled into an ecclesiastical court by local bishops to answer charges of clairvoyance. Since the Greek Life does not clarify the exact nature of the conflict, scholars have suggested that the charge was largely motivated by politics, including disputes between Pachomius and local clergy over the control of parish finances, pastoral care, and Pachomius’s resisting ordination. In this paper, I will suggest that Pachomius’s justification for the expansion of his federation into new territories also prompted the charge of clairvoyance: for according to the Coptic (Bohairic) Life, Pachomius established each new monastery in response to a divine revelation. Local clergy who felt threatened by the presence of a Pachomian monastery in their district could hardly have let such a justification go unchallenged. In addition, I will discuss how the Greek Life, though including the story of the trial, downplays the role such charismatic visions played in the federation’s growth by systematically omitting them from its narrative.
Think global, buy local: shopping for a church in Hermopolis Peter van Minnen, University of Cincinnati
One of the great revolutions in Late Antiquity was the disestablishment of religion. This leveled the playing field and created a religious market place worthy of its name. How did the abandonment of religion by the government affect the inhabitants of the Roman Empire? One way of finding this out is a case study: Hermopolis in Middle Egypt. The trappings of traditional religions were still in place, and the material evidence for their presence was hard to miss, for much of the fourth and early fifth century. Likewise Christian churches and ascetics lived happily side by side with pagan priests and temples, as we can tell from contemporary papyri. Yet, inexorably, the inhabitants of Hermopolis shifted away from traditional religions and adopted Christianity. Why? The most plausible answer is the two-sided appeal of Christianity: on the one hand it was a universal religion (“think global”), on the other hand it only asked for local support (“buy local”). “Universal religion” here means that Christianity (“ready-to-assemble”) was basically the same everywhere and that it came with an (unparalleled) empire-wide network that local Christian communities could tap into. Local Christians, who supported their local church, lived among the visible results of that support without having to go through the government anymore. As a bonus Christians could “shop,” choose from a variety of churches, all of them pretty much the same, yet deeply divided. The evidence, mainly papyrological and archaeological, for these “visible results” of local support will be reviewed. It eventually consisted of a multitude of churches and other religious facilities in and around Hermopolis. The evidence for the variety of churches there and the persistence of divisions at the local level before and after the early fifth century will also be reviewed. Also inexorably, the trappings of traditional religions disappeared in fourth- and early fifth-century Hermopolis. Why? Again, the most plausible answer is twofold: on the one hand state support eventually dried up altogether, on the other hand people started to put their money more and more on the Christian ticket. Both of these tendencies can be documented for the fourth and early fifth century, in part with the help of the onomastic revolution, which also took place at this time. As a bonus traditional religions had produced a lot of materials that could be recycled, most obviously the pagan temples, which, after they were no longer used, could be used as quarries for building material for churches or given some other purpose. This latter aspect can also be documented for early fifth-century Hermopolis.
Female terracotta figurines from late antique Egypt as evidence of local religion David Frankfurter, Boston University
Local religion involves a synthesis of great tradition and little tradition in the negotiation of landscape, social roles, spatial boundaries, and ritual practices, sometimes to the degree that the great tradition is no longer recognizable to an outsider. In this case, a great diversity of female figurines produced in coroplath workshops from Aswan to Karanis to the Abu Mina pilgrim city points to local religious practices performed under the aegis of Christianity (e.g., at saints' shrines) but without evident connection to Christian liturgy or mythology (i.e., they do not seem to represent Mary or Thekla). Their usage seems to have been predominantly votive, signifying a desired procreative body to deposit in hope, while the great diversity of these clay figurines points to an authochthonous, rather than imported or imposed, ritual tradition. This paper stems from a larger project on the local sites of Christianization.
Christianity and Local Religion in the Great OasisMalcolm Choat, Macquarie UniversitySo far from the Nile that its inhabitants still talk of ‘going to Egypt’ when they make the trek to the Valley, the Great Oasis of Graeco-Roman period (the modern Dakhleh and Khargeh Oases) was nevertheless home to Christian communities by the end of the third century. This paper will survey the papyrological, archaeological, and literary evidence for the spread of Christianity, and Manichaeism, in the Oasis down to the fifth century against the backdrop of Graeco-Egyptian religious traditions in the area.
Manuscripts from Eastern Christian Traditions 11/17/2012 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM Room: E264 - McCormick Place
Caroline T. Schroeder, University of the Pacific
Coptic Studies on the Digital Frontier: Creative Approaches to Manuscript Publication (35 min)
At the Source of Biblical Texts: The Bodmer Papyri
Gabriella Gelardini, Universität Basel, Presiding Sylviane Messerli, Martin Bodmer Foundation ColognyThe oldest complete copy of the Gospel of John, the oldest surviving examples and the only known papyrus copies of the Epistles of Jude and Peter, the oldest Greek copy of The Nativity of Mary (Protoevangelium of James): these and other source-texts for the piety of the early Christian centuries are found in the “Bodmer Papyri.” Comprising over 1800 pages written in Coptic and Greek, this collection brings together some fifty biblical and apocryphal texts, as well as secular works. The exceptional quality of each part of this find is augmented by the fact that most of them come from the same collection and thus constitute a veritable library, probably assembled in the fifth or sixth century in a non-monastic setting by a newly-converted scholar. After presenting the history of their discovery and reception, we will focus on one artefact in particular: an anthology of nine texts, copied in the third and fourth centuries and collected in the fourth century in a single binding, by a member of the anti-gnostic Christian community in Egypt, whose folios of Psalms 33 and 34 in selected extracts are on exhibit at the University of Chicago Library.
Manuscripts and Historical Assumptions: The Varied Fabric of Literary Remains among Eastern Christians
Scott Johnson, Georgetown UniversityThis paper seeks to compare how historians use manuscripts, inscriptions, and papyri from eastern Christian languages, mainly Greek, Aramaic/Syriac, and Coptic. In the context of a workshop on manuscripts it offers an overview of the historian's task of combining these disparate types of evidence in very different linguistic and cultural settings. Each linguistic setting has different survival rates in each category. In practice this means that the writing of eastern Christian history is fraught with varying emphases. In recent years Roman historian Fergus Millar has repeatedly highlighted the use of Greek in formal inscriptions from the region of greater Roman Syria where Aramaic/Syriac was a spoken and literary lingua franca among Christians. By contrast, historians of late Roman Egypt in the same period and later have pointed to the profusion of multilingualism (Greek-Coptic-Syriac-Arabic) as evidenced by the papyri, arguing that a single language did not achieve public dominance but that code switching, ad hoc translation, and literary interference were dominant elements of the everyday life of Christians. This paper will attempt to bridge the gap of these competing interpretations by arguing that continuity between the literary history of Syriac in the 2nd–3rd centuries and the manuscript history of Syriac in the 5th–6th centuries offers an important opportunity to correct the misapprehension of Syriac as less of a public language than Greek in the period, and consequently that Roman Syria was more in line with the multilingual experience of Egyptian Christians. This paper will therefore focus on bilingual manuscript culture and how it fits into the cognitive landscape of other literary material culture. It will attempt to provide a larger context for understanding how a problematic inscription like the Nisibis Greek baptistery (359/60) can be profitably read alongside the early Syriac manuscripts and papyri, both east and west of the Euphrates.
The Coptic Testament of Job and its Reception in the Early Christian Period
Gesine Schenke Robinson, Episcopal Theological School at Claremont
The apocryphal Testament of Job has been known for quite some time, but mainly through Greek manuscripts from the early to late medieval period, or by some even later translations of the text into Old Slavonic. It is generally assumed that the Testament of Job was composed sometimes between the first century bce and the early second century ce. Hence these medieval renditions are removed from the original composition by almost thousand years. This made it difficult, thus far, to provide definite answers regarding its original make-up and assumed later redactions, as well as its early tradition- and transmission history. In 1964 however, the papyrus collection of the University of Cologne bought remains of a papyrus codex that contained at least four Coptic translations of apocryphal texts, one of them being the Testament of Job. Given that the Cologne copy of the text – on codicological grounds as well as based on the palaeographical evidence – can be dated to the fourth century, the Coptic witness is by far the earliest testimony of this literary product. Hence it had raised high hopes for the advancement of the study of this important haggadic document of the Jewish lore. Though the text of the Testament of Job follows along the general lines of the narrative familiar from the medieval manuscripts, it became clear that the Greek text lying behind the Coptic translation represents a recension independent from the tradition of the younger witnesses. Compared to those versions, the Coptic text not only shows different variants as they normally occur due to the process of repeated copying and revising of a document, but it also reveals different interpretations of traditional material, dissimilar explanations of events and situations, distinct motivations, and the like. This makes it particularly interesting for the analysis of the transmission history of the various traditions. Of special importance has always been the question of the reception of Jewish lore by early Christianity, and its possible influences on the development of the text. The mere fact that the Testament of Job was translated into Coptic shows the great interest of the early church in this narrative that eventually led to the veneration of Job as a model martyr in the later church.
Two New Coptic Fragments of the Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Pauli)?
Antti Marjanen, University of Helsinki
Two Coptic parchment fragments of a Christian apocryphal text have turned up in a Finnish collection of Coptic manuscripts (Ilves Collection). On the basis of a tentative analysis of the fragments, one can conclude that they seem to have close thematic connections with Paul’s vision of the paradise in the Apocalypse of Paul (or a very similar text). The fragments refer to the encounters of Paul with Lot, Noah, and possibly Hiob. Unlike the majority of the known versions of the Apocalypse of Paul, the Coptic fragments of the Ilves collection do not report the vision of Paul in the first but in the third person. On paleographical grounds, the fragments may be dated to the fifth or sixth century. If the two Coptic fragments can be identified as part of a Coptic version of the Apocalypse of Paul and their dating proves to be right, the two fragments of the Ilves collection may be among the earliest extant manuscripts of the Apocalypse of Paul.