Extracurricular Activities 10.18.14 — Canonical & Non-Canonical Gospels, Bonhoeffer, A Rule for Reading
A highlight of the British New Testament Conference this year was Dr Simon Gathercole’s scintillating and provocative plenary paper, ‘Jesus, the Apostolic Gospel and the Gospels’…This is a hot question in New Testament Studies at present, for study of the non-canonical Gospels is a growth industry (to which Dr Gathercole himself has contributed mightily with two books on the Gospel of Thomas, here and here). Professor Francis Watson’s important and substantial study Gospel Writing, argues that there is very little distance between the canonical and non-canonical Gospels, and that they should be studied as one group of Gospels. The emphasis in scholarship has moved towards emphasising the diversity in early Christianity and, with Watson, doubts that there is a significant distinction between canonical and non-canonical Gospels (e.g., in addition to Francis Watson, see the work of Elaine Pagels, and Stephen Patterson—he in an important essay on ‘The Gospel of Thomas and Historical Jesus Research’). So how does Gathercole engage with this issue?
Monday a prospective student visited with me [Scot McKnight] briefly in my office @nseminary and he expressed his own hopes for churches and for his own calling, which entails teaching theology in a local church — that is, raising the theological level of ordinary Christians. It is a noble hope and vocation, and not one without some challenges.
It so happened that the night before I read about this very challenge in Bonhoeffer (DBW 16.493)[I have reformatted it slightly], and it comes from a set of lecture notes about the church and theology given probably in 1940:
Something that grieves me very much is the gradual disintegration of the evangelical movement in America. And I know where I assign the blame–on what I call “small tent evangelicals” who practice tribalism and totalizing with regard to who is and who is not recognized as “authentically evangelical.”
In scholarship, and this has been true for a very long time, we are tempted to privilege newer research. There are good reasons for this. Old assumptions ought to be questioned, new material evidence ought to be considered, we ought to learn from interdisciplinary and previously ignored voices, etc. This, of course, does not mean that newer is better, only that rethinking old problems tends to be a good thing.
I learned recently that Prof Dale Allison instructs his students to find a ratio between old and new research to guide their reading.
Decades ago, an “oops” pregnancy might have meant a rush to the altar. But when Michelle Sheridan got pregnant three years ago, the topic of marriage never came up with her boyfriend, Phillip Underwood, whom she lives with in Frederick, Md.
If anything, it was the opposite.
“It changes the dynamic of the household,” she says. “I had a friend who put off her marriage. Got pregnant, and she’s like, ‘Let’s just wait, ’cause we don’t know if we’re going to be able to make it through this.’ ”
That attitude reflects a sea change in family life: For the generation under age 35, nearly half of all births are now outside marriage.
(Image: Dietrich Bonhoeffer mit Schülern, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R0211-316 / CC-BY-SA)
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