Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 1: The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 1: The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers

Article excerpt

The New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Vol. 1: The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers. Edited by Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, xiii + 375 pp., $99.00.

Both this book and its companion volume, Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, are intended as publications commemorating the centennial of the appearance of The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1905), which quickly became a landmark for those investigating questions like the canon, Gospel traditions in the second century, Christology, the early church and its ministry, and a myriad of other issues concerning early Christian interpretation.

The editors of these two new volumes hoped "to update, to develop, and to widen the scope of the issues considered" by the original Oxford committee (the "preface" to each vol., p. v), and unquestionably they have produced a welcome supplement to the 1905 parent work. These essays (especially those of volume 2, Trajectories) grew out of several papers presented at a conference held at Lincoln College, University of Oxford, in April 5-7, 2004. They were later expanded by the addition of others written solely for publication in these volumes and address a wide spectrum of issues: the Gospels and Gospel traditions in the second century, the influence of Paul on the early church, the origin of infant baptism, the nature of prophecy, the Eucharist, diversity, and various themes like wisdom.

Due to limitations of space, I shall devote the rest of my remarks to volume 1, Reception, for it is here that the central concern of the original 1905 work is addressed and its conclusions reassessed. What evidence is there in the apostolic fathers for a knowledge and use of those writings now included in the NT? All of the writings examined in the 1905 work are reexamined here by competent scholars: the Didache (Christopher M. Tuckett); 1 Clement (Andrew F. Gregory); the seven epistles of Ignatius (Paul Foster); Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians (Michael W. Holmes); the Epistle of Barnabas (James Carleton-Paget); 2 Clement (Gregory and Tuckett); and the Shepherd of Hermas (Joseph Verheyden). As in 1905, the Epistle to Diognetus and the Martyrdom of Polycarp are excluded from the systematic investigation.

Unlike 1905, this study is prefaced by four important preliminary inquiries: Bart D. Ehrman investigates the manuscript tradition of the apostolic fathers and compares it with that of the NT itself (pp. 9-27); William L. Petersen questions the integrity and state of the NT writings at the time of the apostolic fathers (pp. 29-46); J. Keith Elliott wants to increase the inclusion of the apostolic fathers as witnesses in the apparatus of critical editions of the Greek NT (pp. 47-58); and the editors, Gregory and Tuckett, address methodological questions such as "what constitutes the use of one text in another" (p. 64); what is the distinction between mere "allusion" and a deliberate "quotation"; what are appropriate criteria for judging dependence (e.g. the use of introductory formula like "it is written" or traces of recognizable redaction, which is Helmut Koester's rigid criterion for Gospel traditions); and how should the degree of certainty in one's findings be assessed.

As one might expect, the modern findings of 2005 are sometimes more tentative than those of a century ago, which reflect "perhaps the optimism and confidence of a bygone age" (p. 62). Yet the new study is just as much-or even more so-a product of its own age, with our modern emphasis on diversity and individuality. In spite of their "Reflections on Method" (pp. 61-82), the editors refused to impose any systematic framework or criteria, preferring instead to allow each contributor to "offer his own assessment of the particular features which affect the manner in which and the extent to which the text that he considers quotes or alludes to the New Testament" (p. …

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