One of the Core Markers of Early Christian Identity

One of the most notable features of early Christianity is that it was a religion concerned with books. Particularly, scriptural books.

As Margaret Mitchell observed, “Christianity was a religious movement with texts at its very heart and soul, in its background and foreground. Its communities were characterized by a pervading, even obsessive preoccupation with and habitus for sacred literature.”

Now, to modern ears, this doesn’t seem all that noteworthy. Given our historical situation—a world dominated by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—it seems quite normal for a religion to be bookish.

But it was not always so. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, books were rarely used in religious settings. Other than …

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Recent Books on the Paratextual Features of Early Christian Manuscripts

There is more to a text than merely the words on the page.

This is a principle that is often missed, even by modern readers. When a person reads a book, of course the intellectual attention is primarily centered upon the words and the meaning of those words. But, most readers don’t realize that there are many factors beyond the words that affect one’s reading experience. Such factors often go unnoticed as they operate in the background, often imperceptibly.

Some examples of such “paratextual” features: the size of the page, the size of the font, the spacing between lines, the margins/borders, the use/non-use of color, section headings, chapter headings, the …

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Is P.Oxy. 5575 the Only Manuscript that Mixes Synoptic Material with the Gospel of Thomas?

Back in September of 2023, I published an article on the newly discovered “gospel” manuscript from Oxyrhynchus: “New ‘Gospel’ Manuscript Discovered? (What it Is and Why it Matters).”

That manuscript, labelled P.Oxy. 5575, is a small papyrus manuscript dated to the second-century that exhibits a most notable feature, namely that it apparently contains a conglomeration of material from Matthew (6:25-26, 28-33) and Luke (12:22, 24, 27-31), and this Matt/Luke material is laid alongside portions from the Gospel of Thomas (27, 36, 63).

Indeed, it is this feature that has generated all the online buzz. Why? Because this is purportedly the only known manuscript that mixes Synoptic material with material from …

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One of the Most Remarkable Features of Early Christian Manuscripts

One of my favorite electives I teach here at RTS Charlotte is “The Origin and Authority of the New Testament Canon.” We cover a lot of ground in that course: why we have a NT canon, what is the earliest evidence for a canon consciousness, what were the factors that led to the church receiving just these 27 books, etc. (To take this class online, see RTS Global).

But I think my students particularly enjoy a sub-module of that course where we study high-resolution photographs of early Christian manuscripts. In particular, we spend some time working through images of P66, one of our earliest (nearly complete) copies of …

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Next Week I’m Headed to San Antonio for ETS and SBL—Here’s What I’ll Be Up To

Next week I’m headed to San Antonio, TX, for the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)—two of the largest gatherings for biblical scholars in the world. In addition to the normal meals, gatherings, and meeting with old friends, here’s a little preview of what I will be up to.

1. Time with the Executive Committee.  As a former president of ETS (2019), I am still serving on the Executive Committee (though this is my final year) which now consists of Al Mohler, D.A. Carson, Timothy George, Gregg Allison, Craig Keener, Karen Jobes, and Craig Blomberg.  And I should not forget

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