Friday, 17 December 2010

Heresy in the Early Christian Church dethroned? Thomas A Robinson in Cambridge

Have you ever been in a situation where for weeks you've spoken to a person who, on the surface at least, doesn't stand out in any unusual way, only to find out in parting you've actually being rubbing shoulders with a significant scholar in your field of research? What's more, you have read some of his famous work and quoted him in your own work? That happened to me today! So, who is the scholar I'm referring to? None other than Thomas A. Robinson, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Why is he significant? Well, for several reasons, let me name a few:

i) His doctoral supervisors were EP Saunders and Ben Meyer

ii) The publication of his revised PhD dissertation in 1988 called The Bauer Thesis Examined. Geography of Heresy in the Early Christian Church, probably dethroned the famous theses developed by Walter Bauer (in his book Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity). Bauer's reconstruction of primitive Christianity would want us to hold that the so-called heretical movements in the early Church were early, widespread, and strong. I think Robinson debunked this assertion by citing the lack of data extensive enough to warrant such conclusions.

iii) His new book: Ignatius of Antioch and the Parting of the Ways: Early Jewish-Christian Relations (2009), challenges long held theories about the 'Parting of the Ways'. Endorsements for the book came from Judith Lieu and Larry Hurtado. I found the following quote very informative:

"The distinction drawn between Jews and Christians by authors such as Ignatius is a real one, not an imagined one. The tendency in modern scholarship to narrow the gap between Jews and early Christians sometimes causes us to overlook the simple fact that were we to put a Clement and an Ignatius together, each would have preferred the company of the other to that of the local synagogue and each would have sensed that he shared a common identity with the other that neither shared with the local Jewish community. This is the world in which Ignatius operates" (p241).

Thank you for a wonderful talk professor Robinson - especially the advice on 1 Clement!

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