Session 1: Open Session
Elizabeth Clayton, University of Oxford, ‘“To Us You Have Graciously Given Spiritual Food and Drink” (Did 10:3): Consumption and Formation in the Didache’ (25 mins)
This paper will explore the functions of the eating-related practices prescribed by the Didache. Questions related to the text’s origins often preclude engagement with the document as a whole, and as a result aspects of the Didachist’s theology have remain under-explored. This paper will first contend with the overall aims of the text, and drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of habitus will argue that the Didache seeks to construct an early Christian habitus which orients the community to love of God and neighbor (1:2). With this foundation, the paper will then explore the formational strategies of the Didache and will argue that the embodied practices of the Didache have formational functions. Because of the particular relationship between eating and formation across antiquity, the paper will evaluate the aims of the eating-related practices of the Didache, especially fasting (1:3; 7:4; 8:1), and abstaining from idol food (6:3). Better understanding the functions of eating (and not eating) in the Didache will shed light on the text, and the role of consumption in the development of early Christianity.
Priscilla Buongiorno, Durham University, ‘Perpetua’s μαρτυρία at the Crossroad between Literature, Liturgy and Iconography (Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis 4.9)’ (25 mins)
When her first vision occurs, Perpetua is a catechumen: as she reports in her diary, she is imprisoned and waiting for her sentence. The vision allows her to acknowledge her forthcoming violent death and understand that martyrdom is near. At the end of this episode, Perpetua receives milk (or cheese) as a prize. This paper brings new light to the coexistence of three different cultural layers in Passio 4.9: the eschatological prize of milk (or cheese) represents the place where all these layers intersect:
- Literature: from the Martyrdom of Polycarp (mid-second century), Christians recognised in martyrdom the actualisation of Jesus’ Easter and their participation in his eschatological kingship.
- Liturgy: the first Christian communities celebrated martyrdom as Jesus’ Easter and the anticipation of the eschatological conflict.
- Iconography: visual documents present the imagery of milk (shepherd milking) associated with the portrait of the deceased at peace, likely referencing eschatological expectations.
This paper will illustrate how the overlapping of these three layers in the imagery of milk is possible through the account of a woman.
Tim Murray, Newman University, ‘Education in the Early Church’ (25 mins)
The ‘bookish’ practices of the early Christians have long been noted and have often invited comparison with two other social environments in the first century: Jewish synagogues and philosophical schools. Recent research has both advanced and problematized these comparisons by increasingly treating all three of these groups under the rubric of ‘associations’. Although a nod in this direction is commonplace, many critical questions remain under-addressed, for example: how widespread were philosophical schools and who had access to them? How financially costly were ‘bookish’ activities (and thus who may have been able to afford them)? How might such an emphasis have shaped the social structure and practical arrangements of such groups in ways that differ from other associations? This paper will argue that what we can know of the educative practices of the early church should exercise a greater influence on our historical reconstructions of these communities than is currently the case.
Session 2: Space and Place
George Oliver, King’s College London, ‘Imagining the Mountain in the Acts of Thomas’ (25 mins)
This paper sheds light on how early Christians used imagined mountain spaces for social empowerment as a minority group in the late antique world. Recent scholarship has done much to reveal how early Christians were influenced by Greco-Roman ideas about mountains, and how they adapted these ideas to reimagine mountains as ideal spaces for spiritual refuge and closeness to Christ. This paper offers a new direction, arguing that early Christians imagined mountains not just as spaces for escape from the non-Christian world but also for its conquest and remodelling under Christianity. It tests this hypothesis by reading the Acts of Thomas through the lens of oropolitics, which views mountains as social constructs rather than scientifically definable environments. In closing, I find that the Acts of Thomas uses the mountain as a cataclysmic space in which Thomas’ martyrdom marks the triumph of Christianity over paganism, and a place in which history ends and restarts to reorganise the world under faith in Christ.
Rachel L. Danley, University of Aberdeen, ‘Extending the Imagination of Temple Metaphors in Early Judaism and Christianity’ (25 minutes)
The embodied experience of the physical Jerusalem Temple provided a rich conceptual reservoir to develop theology and shape the lived space of the early Jewish communities. While there was already a basis for the spiritualization of the Temple reality in early Jewish texts, early Christianity took this to another level while preserving a similar overlapping of Temple metaphors. By integrating Critical Spatiality and Conceptual Metaphor Theory, this paper will consider how early Jewish metaphors of the Temple overlay one another in John 14, where Heaven as Temple, Community as Temple, and Body as Temple shape new lived spaces in proximity to the divine. From this, it will observe how other early Christian writings develop Temple concepts from John 14 in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies 5.36.2 and Origen’s On First Principles 2.11.6 to shape their theology and practices. With distance from the physical Temple, but moreover, its lived social space, these images take on an imaginative space that reaches beyond its origins.
Edward Wong, University of Edinburgh, ‘Oscillating between “Safe” and “Unsafe” Spaces: Revisiting Johannine Spatial Aporias from a Geotrauma Approach’ (25 mins)
The Fourth Gospel is well known for its notorious geographical “aporias”, which appear to clash with the Gospel’s remarkable thematic coherence and stylistic unity. Despite attempts by scholars to reconcile these discontinuities through various approaches, such as rearrangement and stage-development theories, one aspect is often overlooked: these transitional irregularities tend to occur after or in anticipation of conflictive and traumatic events in the narrative. This paper proposes a new approach by examining how conflict-related trauma manifests in the Gospel’s spatial framework, resulting in geographical inconsistencies and mobility gaps. Drawing on theories that connect trauma, spatiality, and literary representation, this paper will first demonstrate that certain spaces in the Gospel serve as a means of conveying the perceptual zoning of “safe” and “unsafe” spaces, which is often seen as a kind of trauma response. I will then argue that the text’s shifting disposition of its characters between spaces creates a persistent oscillating pattern that corresponds to the antithetical notions of conflict confrontation and threat avoidance, while also introducing the disruptive effects of trauma in the form of spatial ruptures, contradictions, and disjunctions.
Session 3: Open Session
Taylor Weaver, University of Oslo, ‘Imagining Ecclesial Forms: Deleuze & Guattari and Early Christian Community’ (25 mins)
Deleuze and Guattari have, surprisingly, been used in some theoretical attempts to model (or at least to gesture to models) of early Christian associational ties and their currents (for instance, Cavan Concannon’s Assembling Early Christianity). In this essay, rather than using the work of D&G as inspiring imagery in modelling of concrete data, I co-opt their corruption of the ‘rhizome’ to form the contours of intra- and inter-associational movements. Using Pauline body imagery in 1 Corinthians, and ‘gifting’ terminology that occurs in 2 Corinthians, I re-form early Christian bodies around the imagery of a root-mass and a constantly undulating pool. While this paper is theoretical, using continental philosophy (Deleuze and Gauttari, primarily) as a frame of a speculative reading of early Christian political movement and structure, it doesn’t depart completely, using a skeleton of what has been provided by recent social scientific works on associations in the early Christian context. This reading, further, will show the capacity for new metaphors to provoke imaginative (and historically constructive) interpretations of NT texts.
Alan Garrow, St Peter’s Harrogate, ‘What are the Didaches?’ (25 mins)
On the one hand, the Didache is commonly understood as one of the great manuscript discoveries of the nineteenth century. On the other, its discovery has had remarkably little impact on how scholars think and talk about early Christianity. The reason for this disconnect is not merely that the Didache fails to fit within standard categories but also because it fails to make sense within itself: simple, practical instructions in one part are sometimes directly contradicted by instructions in another. In response to this puzzle, this paper argues that the Didache is not one document but two – two documents that have been spliced together and overlaid with further additions. When this compositional process is reversed, two Didaches emerge: the Original Didache and the Revised Didache. Initial indications suggest that these might be, respectively, the Complete Apostolic Decree (cf. Acts 15) and the Missing Epistle of John (cf. 3 John 9).
Maxim Venetskov, University of Glasgow, ‘Synaxaria and Menologia on the New Testament Readings: Typology and Criteria for a Critical Edition’ (25 mins)
Non-lectionary manuscripts of the New Testament frequently present, at the beginning or end of Gospels or Apostles books, specific lists including scriptural readings over the liturgical year with multiple explanations, which are called Synaxaria, Menologia, and Eklogadia. These liturgical texts, attached to the biblical texts, show a reading tradition fixed from the time of the formation of the canon and contain several variations, being more developed or abbreviated according to manuscript clusters. After Gregory’s edition, which includes only a few witnesses, we emphasize the necessity of a critical edition of the Synaxaria and propose some methodological criteria for the choice of manuscript witnesses. The link between the Synaxaria, the numerous reading marks in the body or margins of the text, and the ekphonetic notation is also explored. The investigation of these liturgical aspects of the Bible will allow us to discover and reconsider the reading practices of these sacred texts in the Orthodox Church in Byzantium followed up until today.