Shorter Reviews and Notices -- Heresy and Criticism: The Search for Authenticity in Early Christian Literature by Robert M. Grant

Article excerpt

Heresy and Criticism: The Search for Authenticity in Early Christian Literature, by Robert M. Grant. Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, 1993. 180 PP. $17.00. ISBN 0-664-21971-3.

GRANT, a long-time contributor to early Christianity scholarship, adds to his substantial legacy of books and essays with this insightful and effective correlation between the early Christian and classical societies. He shows how each group sought to validate the integrity and authorship of its most important writings by following similar literary techniques of criticism. He documents how first the heretical and then the orthodox Christians adopted the literary-critical tools of the Hellenistic schools in order either to authenticate or to question the text, authorship, and interpretation of biblical books held in dispute by each. Accordingly, they increasingly borrowed the tools of philology, grammar, logic, syllogistic exegesis, and the methods of refutation and confirmation taught in the schools of rhetoric to substantiate claims that originally rested solely on the authority of tradition. As the movement for identifying a specific canon developed, church leaders realized this claim of tradition was insufficient grounds for determining the authenticity of a given text. Naturally, given the prevailing influence of Greek culture, it was only a matter of time before other methods for authenticating texts were employed. Grant confirms how the heretic Marcion, the first person to compile a collection of canonical New Testament scriptures, was also the first to adopt literary criticism in order to justify his personal choice of texts. Later orthodox exegetes (e.g., Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Jerome) defended against such heretics by using similar techniques of literary criticism to reject Gnostic texts and authenticate their own. …