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Unevolved: A Study in Diverse Christian Social Organization

Boyles, John (2016)
Dissertation (440 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Holladay, Carl R
Committee Members: Johnson, Luke T ; Evans-Grubbs, Judith ; Kraftchick, Steven
Research Fields: Biblical studies; Religious history; Ancient history
Keywords: New Testament Studies; Christian Origins; Early Christian Social Organization; 1 Corinthians; Gospel of Matthew; Didache; Ancient Mediterranean Associations
Program: Laney Graduate School, Religion (New Testament)
Permanent url: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/rq18d

Abstract

Unevolved: A Study in Diverse Christian Social Organization

By John H. Boyles

Despite an increased acceptance of diverse theological views among earliest Christians after Walter Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy early in the 20th century, the general model that lurks in the background of most discussions around the organization of early Christian communities remains monolithic. Though scholars show an increased willingness to discuss pockets of individual communities, such as the Johnannine community or the Pauline communities, and so display a willingness to engage the texts on their own terms, when the large-scale portrait of Christian origins comes into view, the model scholarship falls back on remains that of the era of Adolf Harnack and Rudolph Sohm. There is an original egalitarian organization that has its origins in the Jesus movement and continues into the early Pauline communities. Gradually, this egalitarianism ossifies into proto-catholic hierarchy before becoming the full on institutionalism of the three-fold ministry.

This dissertation questions this viewpoint, proposing instead that the earliest Christian communities shaped their communities by drawing upon their own experiences and resources in their world to outline and fulfill the functions they found to be necessary and important in their lives. For this reason, their community organization was diverse from the beginning rather than monolithic as their contexts and needs were diverse.

The first chapter reviews the problem and its history. The second chapter utilizes literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence to paint the broader picture of social groups in the ancient Mediterranean world, such as religious, cultural, immigrant, and political groups, as well as social clubs and even the Roman military. This picture clearly evinces that human social forms in the ancient world were quite fluid. Then, each of the third, fourth, and fifth chapters situates an early Christian texts (1 Corinthians, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Didache) within the ancient Mediterranean world by reading them with careful attention to their social functions and the forms they utilize in accomplishing these functions. As first and second-generation texts,1 Corinthians and Matthew indicate alternative manifestations of Christian community. The Didache, a later text, displays that these varied earlier forms have not elided into a uniform phenomenon but rather varied occasions have summoned various forms and functions. These three texts, then, show that a single line of evolutionary development cannot be drawn and a monolithic view of early Christian social organization cannot be held.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii

CHAPTER 1 THE PROBLEM OF A UNIFORM, DEVELOPMENTAL

MODEL FOR EARLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES 1

Problems in Popular and Scholarly Understandings 1

A Challenge from the Didache 2

Obscuring Interpretations of the Didache 3

The Goals of the Dissertation 6

The Story of Orthodoxy: Christian Origin Myths 6

Patristic Interpretation 8

The Reformation and the Establishment of Two Origins Myths 9

Attempts to Move Beyond the Two Origins Myths and F. C. Baur's

Revival of the Protestant Myth 1

Arguments from the Ancient Mediterranean Milieu 14

Adolf Harnack, Rudolph Sohm, and the Didache 17

Outliers to the New Consensus and Recent Proposals 19

The State of the Field Today 25

An Outline of the Dissertation 27

CHAPTER 2 THE ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN MILIEU 29

The Fluidity of Ancient Mediterranean Associations 29

Modern Study of the Associations 29

The Nature of the Evidence 37

Examples of Each Type of Evidence 38

Unanswered Questions 45

On Genetic Relationships and The Imposition of Missing Data 46

The Breakdown of Taxonomies 52

Summary: The Understanding and Misunderstanding of Associations 54

Association, Function, and a Way Forward 57

Function Over Taxonomy 57

Functions as Building Blocks 59

The Ancient Synagogue: A Test Case 72

Functions of the Synagogue 72

Functionaries of the Synagogue 76

Summary - Functions and the Synagogue 82

Conclusions - A Functional Analysis of Associations 83

CHAPTER 3 FIRST CORINTHIANS 86

A Methodological Note 87

Critical Questions 89

Authorship 91

Date 89

The Compositional Integrity of First Corinthians 92

The Communities of Corinth 98

Applying the Four Functions 102

Regular Meetings 102

Membership Management 127

Resource Management 140

Public Relations 144

A Community Sketch At Corinth 145

Functionaries and Offices 146

Summary 149

CHAPTER 4 MATTHEW 151

Introduction 151

Richard Bauckham's Gospels for All Christians 153

Genre, Allegory, and Context 156

Early Christian Leadership 162

Date 171

Provenance 178

Applying the Four Functions 184

Membership Management 184

Resource Management 199

Regular Meetings 204

Public Relations 209

A Community Sketch 212

Leadership within the Matthean Community 214

Forbidden Titles and the Role of Peter 222

Summary and Conclusion 224

CHAPTER 5 THE DIDACHE 227

Introduction: Critical Issues of the Didache 227

Date 231 Provenance 234

Source and Redaction Critical Readings 239

Applying the Four Functions 245

Member Initiation and Management of Membership 245

Regular Meetings 251

Resource Management 257

Public Relations 264

Summary 266

A Community Sketch 267

Time 267

Roles and Authority 278

Summary and Conclusion 293

CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION 296

Evolutionary Development 296

Corinth 296

Matthew 398

The Didache 299

Increasing Specificity of Roles 301

APPENDIX 304

Inscriptions and Papyri - Table 1 306

Architectural Evidence - Table 2 374

Literary Evidence - Table 3 388

BIBLIOGRAPHY 405

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