Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers

By Andrew F. Gregory; Christopher M. Tuckett | Go to book overview

6
The Church in Ephesians, 2 Clement, and the
Shepherd of Hermas

John Muddiman


INTRODUCTION

The ground-breaking volume, The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, published by a committee of the Oxford Society for Historical Theology1 in 1905, whose centenary this volume and its companion celebrate, introduced into the discussion of the delicate question of the earliest attestation to the New Testament documents some necessary distinctions. The committee categorized possible allusions on a four-point scale: a = ‘no reasonable doubt’; b = ‘a high degree of probability; c = ‘a lower degree of probability; and d = ‘too uncertain to allow any reliance’, with other very slight allusions noted but left unassessed or ‘unclassed’. Although some of the committee’s assessments are questionable, and certain of them involving Ephesians will be questioned below, the importance of this refinement of criteria and careful distinctions as to degrees of probability was an important advance in critical scholarship.

The detection of allusions to the New Testament in the earliest Christian writings has a direct bearing on many of the central issues in the history of the early church, such as the dating, provenance, and dissemination of the NT documents; textual criticism before actual manuscript evidence becomes available; the persistence of oral tradition alongside written texts; evidence for lost documents such as Q; the formation of the four-gospel canon and the Pauline letter collection; and highly controversial issues like the date and sources of the Didache (and indeed apocryphal works like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter). Depending on the results of such studies,

1 The Committee consisted of scholars who were somewhat on the fringe of the university establishment, including dissenters like Professor J. Vernon Bartlet, of the Congregational Mansfield College, and Dr Drummond, Principal of the Unitarian Manchester College, along with Professor Kirsopp Lake, who moved to Leiden in 1904. This may explain a certain distancing in the Preface: ‘The Society has no responsibility whatever for the work’ (p. iii).

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