The Discursive Fight over Religious Texts in Antiquity

The Discursive Fight over Religious Texts in Antiquity

The Discursive Fight over Religious Texts in Antiquity

The Discursive Fight over Religious Texts in Antiquity

Excerpt

As mentioned in the preface, in this book a group of scholars from (or with strong connections to) the Faculty of à eology at Aarhus University, Denmark present some of the results of a research project named ‘à e discursive fight over religious texts in antiquity. ài's project has been running since the beginning of 2007. Before that the same group of scholars (more or less) conducted another project entitled ‘Critique and Apologetics – Jews, Christians and Pagans in antiquity’. à ese projects have been conducted under the framework of a research seminar with the title ‘Antiquity and Christianity’ which was opened in 1999. ài's book thus provides a taste of the research in the field of Antiquity and Christianity’ which has now been conducted in organised form at the Faculty of à eology in Aarhus over the past ten years.

à e project ‘à e discursive fight over religious texts in antiquity’, which is mirrored in this book, has focused on the factors that played a role in the development of a normative Christian corpus of scripture, and Christianity’s response to various interpretations of this canonical corpus. Christianity developed from being a charismatic movement to becoming institutionally more organised. à e close relationship between Judaism and Christianity changed, and Christianity manifested itself as a separate religion. à e development of a number of alternative interpretations of Christianity also generated a demand for an authoritative collection of texts, binding doctrines etc.

ài's institutionalisation and a variety of more anonymous processes have inÄuenced the canon of Christian scriptures. Many texts were already used at church services and in teaching, which also contributed to the formation of the Christian canon. Another characteristic feature is that religious groups have consolidated their identity and thus distanced themselves from other religious and social groups by favouring certain collections of texts. Some texts were considered to have a greater degree of truth than others. ài's meant that certain texts were perceived as generating the norms and values for the religious group’s ethics and world view. Eventually, the development of liturgical uses of the texts and the social process of using them to form identities meant that these texts contributed to the shaping of the criteria that legitimised their own normative status.

ài's development included a shift from oral to written tradition. Written narrative cannot be adjusted to the same extent as oral narrative to meet the expectations of its audience, and this tends to cause dissonance between the values and views of ancient texts and the values and views of readers in a subsequent age. To overcome this disagreement and to justify the normative role of the text, it became necessary to develop special interpretation strategies.

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