Proceedings 2018

Animation of Jesus, Peter, James and John with 'caption competition' written below

Theme 2018 :Jesus' Inner Circle: Peter, James and John

Conference curtain raiser - Thursday 3 May 2018

Professor Troy Martin

Key speaker - Professor Troy W Martin (Saint Xaviers Chicago)

Topic: Transfigurrection -  An Inner-Circle View of the Afterlife Witnessed and Proclaimed by Peter, James, and John.

Abstract: The Synoptic narratives specify that only Jesus' inner-circle disciples Peter, James, and John witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:38-43; Matt 9:23-26; Luke 8:49-56), the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-10; Matt 17:1-9; Luke 9:28-36), and Jesus' agony in the garden of Gethsemene (Mark 14:32-42; Matt 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46). Interpreters are almost unanimous in relating Jesus' agony in the garden to his crucifixion and in seeing the raising of Jairus' daughter as prefiguring Jesus' resurrection, but they are less certain of what to make of Jesus' transfiguration. This presentation traces a developing view of the afterlife through Jewish and Christian sources that understands a two-stage preparation for afterlife consisting of a resurrection of a dead corpse followed by a transfiguration that prepared the resurrected for heavenly existence. This paper concludes that the presence of these three intimate disciples of Jesus lends prominence to these three events, which form the essential confessions of the early Christian kerygma about Jesus' death, resurrection, and heavenly transformation.


Conference abstracts -  Saturday 5 May 2018

Key speaker - Professor Troy W Martin

Topic: Christ's Healing Sore: A Medical Reading of 1 Peter 2:24.

Abstract: Sores are disgusting and especially those oozing bodily fluids. Sores are a pathological problem in need of healing. These modern perceptions make the interpretation of the term μώλωπι ("sore") in 1 Pet 2:24 quite difficult. The author of this text claims to be Peter, one of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples, and he is the first Christian writer, as far as we know, to assert that Christ's sore heals others. This notion of a sore that heals strikes moderns as quite odd, and this oddity arises in part from a lack of understanding about the ancient source domain of Peter's salvific-hygenic metaphor according to which a μώλωψ is part of a restorative process. This paper seeks to remedy this lack of understanding and to overhear this Petrine metaphor once again in its ancient context.

Michele Connolly

Dr Michele Connolly

Topic: A Woman in the Inner Circle of Jesus? Intimations from the Johannine Mother of Jesus.

Abstract: New Testament Gospel evidence for any woman being in the inner circle of Jesus is sparse.  One woman who features in all four Gospels and in a variety of ways is the mother of Jesus.  In the Gospel of John there are hints that she is a woman of dangerous memories and influence with Jesus.  The paper proposes that two stories, John 2:1-12 and 19:25-27, expose the efforts the original Christian community made to contain the influence of a woman inside the inner circle of Jesus.


Dr Chris Forbes

Dr Chris Forbes

Topic: Jesus' Inner Circle and the leaders of the early church: Peter, James (and James) and John (and John and John)?

Abstract: The evidence of the Gospels strongly suggests that within the circle of Jesus' close disciples, remembered as "the Twelve", there was an inner group of three: Simon son of John who Jesus nick-named Cephas (=Peter, John 1:42, 21:15-17) and James and John the sons of Zebedee who he nick-named Boanerges, "sons of thunder" (Mark 1:19, 3:17 and parallels). Luke 5:10 suggests they were business partners before they became disciples of Jesus. Sometimes Simon's brother Andrew is associated with them as well (Matthew 10:2, Mark 13:3, Acts 1:13). But it was the "inner three" who were reported to be with him when he raised Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:51), on the "Mount of Transfiguration" (Mark 9:2), and in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33).

In the earliest stages of the Christian movement recorded in Acts this inner group are mentioned several times (Acts 1:13, 3:1, 4:1, 8:14), but the focus is on Peter and John; the execution of James (probably in 41) is mentioned briefly in Acts 12:2. But James son of Zebedee is soon replaced and eclipsed by James "the brother of the Lord" (implicitly Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, Acts 12:17, Acts 15:13, explicitly in Galatians 1:19). "James son of Alphaeus" disappears altogether. By the time Paul writes Galatians (48-49?) Peter and James "the Lord's brother" appear to be the best-known and most influential leaders; the only "Johns" mentioned in Acts after ch. 12:2 are John the Baptist and John Mark.

Two canonical letters are associated with Peter by later Christian writers. What is not clear is whether they should be understood as literally his writings, or as later summaries of his teaching. Some later church writers believe there was also another Peter, identified as "one of the seventy-two" (cf. Luke 10:1-17), but this seems most unlikely: early sources only know of one Peter. The canonical "Letter of James" is linked to James "the Lord's brother" rather than James son of Zebedee, but the same caution must be applied: we do not know in what sense it is claimed to be by James, whose death in approx. 61-62 is reported by Josephus (A.J. 20:200) and later Christian writers. Little is known of the later career of John son of Zebedee from first-century sources, but one Gospel, three letters and the Apocalypse are credited to persons called John. Are there good reasons for thinking that some or all of them were written by John son of Zebedee?

Whatever the later career of John son of Zebedee, Peter remained a dominant figure in the development of earliest Christianity due to his early close association with Jesus. His brother Andrew remains largely unknown. The leadership of the church in Jerusalem soon passed from Peter and the sons of Zebedee to James, the brother of Jesus. According to later writers it was handed on to other members of Jesus' family, including possibly the author of the canonical Letter of Jude (= Judas, Mark 6:3 and parallels). Jesus' "inner circle" remained vividly in early Christian memory, and much can be said of Peter's ongoing influence. Little can be said of James son of Zebedee, and there are many (but controversial) details about the (various?) Johns. This lecture will explore the main options.


Dr Bronwen Neil

Professor Bronwen Neil

Topic: Leo the Great's Homilies on the Apostle Peter

Abstract: Leo the Great, bishop of Rome (440-461), was one of the great preachers of Late Antiquity. Almost one hundred sermons survive from his pen, along with 143 letters. Leo preached some fifteen times each year on significant occasions throughout the liturgical yearly cycle: the anniversary of his ordination (29 September), the solemn fasts, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, the Feast of the Ascension, Pentecost, and the anniversary of Saints Peter and Paul. The homilies on his anniversary and on the feast of Peter and Paul were opportunities for Leo to reflect on what it meant to the heir of the first apostle, Peter. This paper looks at these Petrine homilies in the context of Leo's relationship with the other main churches of the Christian oikoumene in East and West.


Blake Wassell

(Macquarie Uni Graduate and  PhD Candidate at Uni of Otago)

Topic: The absence of John from John: projecting the disciple into the book.

Abstract: Not only is the gospel according to John anonymous, but it also gets no closer to mentioning the apostle himself than its single reference to "the ones of Zebedee" (see 21:2). Though my paper explores the way that the narrative characterises its authors, it isn't just another attempt to identify them. So, notwithstanding Lazarus' (e.g. 11:3) intriguing connections with the disciple whom Jesus loved (first mentioned in 13:23), I'm primarily interested in two other questions-both concerning pseudonymity. I will frame John's pseudonymous authorship claim as competitive, in the sense that it elevates its own theology over against the theologies of other early Christian gospels. As for the pseudonymous attribution to Zebedee's son, I will argue that it undermines both the text's anonymity and the disciple's ambiguity. Theologically and narratively, the gospel traditionally attributed to John really resists that particular disciple. In light of the synoptic picture, such an absence from the Johannine Jesus' inner circle dissociates eyewitness testimony from intimacy with the text's main protagonist.

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(Last updated May 2 by volunteer webmaster)

Proceedings 2017

Theme: Apostles and the Churches they Founded: History, Tradition and Legend

St Peter

The 2017 SSEC day conference was held on Saturday 6 May 2017.  The theme : Apostles and the Churches they Founded: History, Tradition and Legend. The main speaker Dr Geoffrey Dunn (ACU) who will be the SSEC visiting fellow for 2017.

Conference curtain raiser 2017 was held on the evening of Thursday 4 May 2017

Theme: Apostles and the Churches they Founded: History, Tradition and Legend.

Guest speaker: Dr Geoffrey Dunn (ACU ) is the SSEC visiting fellow for 2017.  Topic: Peter in Rome: The Papal Reimagining of a Scriptural Tradition

Abstract: The presence of Peter in Rome is not attested to in the New Testament. It is consistently asserted or presumed however, in early Christian literature, from 1 Clement and Ignatius of Antioch, and from the interpretation of archaeological evidence in the necropolis under St Peter's Basilica.
While the literary tradition for Peter's presence in Rome seems as unassailable and trustworthy as any ancient literary evidence can be, it does not answer the question of Peter's precise role in Rome and its ongoing significance. This would come to be asserted in episcopal letters from Roman bishops in later centuries.

Note: Extra Lecture held on Fri 5 May 2017

In addition to our Curtain Raiser on Thurs 4 May 2017 and the Conference on Sat 6 May 2017, the 2017 SSEC visiting scholar, Dr Geoffrey Dunn (ACU) gave a paper in the Departmental Research Seminar Series at 4pm on Friday 5 May in the Museum on Ancient Cultures. No charge.  His topic:  The Children of Constantius III and Galla Placidia. Note: At the same event Dr John Lee (MQ) will speak on "The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek" (2015): A Replacement for LSJ?

Here are the full details of the Departmental Research Seminar Series 2017 (session 1), speakers, dates and their abstracts.  Click here. (PDF 362KB)

Abstracts for Extra Lecture

Dr Geoffrey Dunn (ACU): The Children of Constantius III and Galla Placidia

Flavius Constantius married Galla Placidia, half-sister to Emperor Honorius (395-423) at the beginning of 417, the year in which he celebrated his second consulship. About a year later a daughter was born to them and then in July 419 a son, who would soon succeed as Valentinian III (425-455), under the regency of his mother until 437. Constantius would become emperor in 421 for several months until his death. In her recent volume Meaghan McEvoy ascribes Constantius' success to his own ambition (p. 214). However, in his biography of Galla Placidia, Stewart Oost pointed to the fact that Placidia was equally ambitious. We know from Olympiodorus (frag. 33.1) that Placidia was behind the bestowing of the title of nobilissimus (a ceremony described in the tenth-century De ceremoniis 1.44[53]) by Honorius (and not Theodosius II, as claimed by Eileen Rubery) on the infant Valentinian (depicted in the Romulus intaglio in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg). This paper explores not only this event but the names given to these children to argue that, since they highlight both Placidia's paternal and maternal ancestry (and reflect nothing of Constantius), she was making a strong claim not only for Valentinian to be the childless Honorius' heir, but about her own eminence as the scion of two imperial dynasties.

A/Prof. John Lee: "The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek" (2015): A Replacement for LSJ?
A new lexicon of ancient Greek has recently been published, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, by Franco Montanari, English editors M. Goh and C. Schroeder (Leiden: Brill, 2015). It is a 'major' lexicon, similar in size and scope to the standard reference tool, Liddell-Scott-Jones. Some claims are made as to the enhancements offered. This paper first explains the provenance of the new lexicon, then compares it with LSJ and assesses how far it can be considered a replacement for the older work.

Annual SSEC Conference 2017 held daytime on Sat 6 May 2017

Speakers as follows:

  • Dr Geoffrey Dunn (ACU) who is the SSEC visiting fellow for 2017, with his topic " Peter in Rome in Early Christian Apocrypha: The Evidence of Acts of Peter"
  • Distinguished International Speaker, Professor Laurence Welborn (Fordham NY & Macquarie), "The Afterlife of the Church Paul founded in Corinth"
  • Professor Bronwen Neil, (Macquarie), "Clash of The Apostles: Mani and the Heir of Peter in Fifth-Century Rome"
  • Dr Rosalinde Kearsley (Macquarie), "Why did Paul go to Pisidian Antioch and what did he find there?"
  • Dr Julien Ogereau (LMU Munich/Macquarie) (Note: Julien Ogereau is a "LMUexcellent Research Fellow") with "Paul's Legacy in Macedonia:  Literary, Epigraphic, Archaeological Perspectives"
  • Dr Christopher Forbes (Macquarie) with topic "Apostles and the Churches they did (and didn't ) found"
  • Marty Feltham (PhD candidate Macquarie), "Paul, the Ephesians & the eclipse of hope? 1 Timothy 5:3-25 reconsidered"

Abstracts for SSEC Conference

Dr Geoffrey Dunn, SSEC Visiting lecturer 2017

Topic: Peter in Rome in Early Christian Apocrypha:  The Evidence of the Acts of the Apostles

Abstract: Peter appears frequently in New Testament apocrypha (or pseudepigrapha, depending upon one's religious tradition), such as Acts of Peter (Actus Petri cum Simone), Acts of Peter and Andrew, Gospel of Peter, Acts of Peter and the Twelve (in the Nag Hammadi collection), Acts of Peter and Paul/Passion of Peter and Paul, the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter (in the Nag Hammadi collection), Apocalypse of Peter, Letter of Peter to James, and The Preaching of Peter. Interest in this literature has been reawakened in recent years by the 2003 publications of Bart Ehrman (Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities). If nothing else these early Christian texts witness to the importance of Peter for early Christians. Approaching these texts has been made difficult by many of them being tainted as forgeries and/or heretical. This presentation examines Acts of Peter, a late second-century text preserved in the important fourth-century Codex Vercellensis evangeliorum, the oldest manuscript of the Old Latin gospels and the Euthalian apparatus, attributed to Eusebius of Vercelli (found in PL 12). These acts, as in the pseudo-Clementine literature, tell of a miracle contest between Peter and Simon Magus as well as the tradition of Peter's martyrdom. The argument presented here concerns the extent to which this document contributes to the idea of Peter's founding of the church of Rome and just what that entailed.

Bio: Keynote Speaker - Professor Geoffrey Dunn is the SSEC visiting lecturer for 2017.  Formerly from the Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University, 2017 Visiting lecturer - Catholic Theological Institute, Bomana, Papua New Guinea

Professor Laurence Welborn

Professor Laurence Welborn

Topic: The Afterlife of the Church Paul founded in Corinth

Abstract: Sometime at the end of the first or the beginning of the second century, a report  (ἀκοή)  reached Rome that the church of the Corinthians was in revolt against its presbyters (1 Clem. 47:6-7):  some of the presbyters had been removed from their ministry (1 Clem. 44:6).  The leaders of the revolt were evidently only a few persons (1 Clem. 1:1; cf. 47:6), but they enjoyed enough support within the church to carry out the deposition (1 Clem. 47:6; cf. 44:3).  How did this revolution in ecclesial leadership occur and, more importantly, for what reason? This paper will pursue the hypothesis that the "leaders of the uprising" (ἀρχηγοὶ στάσεως, 1 Clem. 51:1) in the church at Corinth were certain young men, and that these persons, however few in number (1 Clem. 1:1; cf. 47:6), brought about the deposition of some of the presbyters (47:6; 54:2), evidently with the consent of the church.

Bio: Distinguished International Speaker, Professor Laurence Welborn. Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Fordham University and Honorary Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University.

Dr Bronwen Neil

Professor Bronwen Neil

Topic: Clash of the Apostles:  Mani and the Heir of Peter in Fifth Century Rome

Abstract: In January 444 Leo the Great (440-461) informed the bishops of Italy of the outcome of his investigations into the activities and beliefs of the Manichees in Rome. His sole surviving letter on the subject gives a detailed account of the senate tribunal over which Leo presided (ep. 7; CFML 1, 46-49). Leo announced the tribunal's judgement that 'the Manichaean perversity', and its instigator Mani, the self-styled 'Paraclete', ought to be condemned by orthodox Christians, and its believers expelled from Italian churches. Leo's strong statement against the Manichees bears a distinct resemblance to the edict (Constitutio) published by Emperor Valentinian III in the following year, in which the 'incestuous perversity' of the Manichees is declared a public crime with appropriate penalties. In July 447 Leo again attacked Manichaeism in his lengthy letter to Turibius of Astorga (ep. 15, ed. Schipper and van Oort, 50-76) against Priscillianism, a heresy that he traced back to Mani among other 'philosophers'. Placing the two letters side by side with imperial rescripts, I consider how the letter form could be used to exercise both ecclesiastical and judicial authority in the Manichaean persecution, and the grounds on which the two authorities - Leo I on the one hand, and Valentinian III and Theodosius II on the other - defended their judgements to their addressees. This textual comparison will reveal how bishops and emperors sought to define and contain acts of sacrilege in mid-fifth-century Rome.

Bio: Bronwen Neil is Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University and currently an ARC Future Fellow (2014-2018).

Dr Chris Forbes

Dr Christopher Forbes

Topic: Apostles and the Churches they did (and didn't) found

Abstract: Details will be available at the 2017 SSEC Conference. Dr Forbes is currently travelling overseas, prior to the conference.

Bio: Dr Chris Forbes is Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Vice President of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity.

Dr Rosalinde Kearsley

Topic: Why did Paul go to Pisidian Antioch and what did he find there?

Abstract: The ancient Greek city of Pisidian Antioch was designated by Augustus as the caput viae of the paved road he had constructed in a looping north-south course through Pisidia in 6/5 BC. Two decades earlier, Antioch's population had been supplemented by Augustus with Roman veteran soldiers and from that time onwards it was the most important representative of Roman imperial power in the region. Its strategic geographical location was greatly enhanced by the new road and the opening up of access to other Roman colonies and the cities of the Pamphylian plain.
In order to reach Pisidian Antioch, Paul had to face/conquer/press through extremely difficult terrain after leaving the coastlands. He appears from the account in Acts to have travelled there purposively with Antioch foremost in his mind as his ultimate destination. Archaeological research and epigraphy now both contribute to the fuller understanding of life and society in Antioch. It also invites/suggests a possible hypothesis about Paul's decision to make for Antioch and what he would have expected to find there on arrival.

Bio: Dr Rosalinde Kearsley. Former Lecturer in Ancient History at Macquarie, teaching Roman imperial history and classical archaeology.   Now Honorary Fellow in Ancient History. Previously Australian Research Fellow in Ancient History.

Dr Julien Ogereau

Dr Julien Ogereau

Topic: Paul's Legacy in Macedonia:  Literary, Epigraphic, Archaeological Perspectives

Abstract: This paper explores the impact and legacy of the first apostolic mission led by Paul of Tarsus in the province of Macedonia.
It brings into focus literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence to (attempt to) discern between history and later legends and traditions, and to reconstruct a history of the first churches Paul and his companions established in the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroia.

Bio: Dr Julien Ogereau (LMU Munich/Macquarie).  LMU excellence Research Fellow. Julien holds a PhD in Ancient History from Macquarie University (2014) and was the inaugural Junior Research Fellow of the Macquarie Ancient Cultures Research Centre in 2015.

Marty Feltham

Marty Feltham

Topic: Paul, the Ephesians & the eclipse of hope? 1 Timothy 5:3-25 reconsidered

Abstract: 1 Timothy is commonly considered to attest the shift amongst Pauline churches to 'bourgeois Christianity' in which Christian ethics are no longer 'eschatologically conditioned', but instead are directed towards 'the peace of a secure life' in this world. Dibelius and Conzelmann, the most influential proponents of this widely held view, have argued that the 'family ethic' found in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 is 'completely different' to that of the Apostle Paul because, unlike 1 Timothy, Paul's attitude was 'eschatologically determined'. Contrary to that view, firstly this paper will outline the eschatological framing of expectations in 1 Timothy 4-6, including the use of a two-stage eschatological schema (4:8), the repeated insistence that various church members 'fix their hope on God' (6:17; cf. 4:10; 5:5), the appeals to the parousia (5:21; 6:13-16), and the apparent expectation that Timothy will survive until then (6:14). Secondly, in this context, this paper will conduct an extended case study on 1 Timothy 5:3-25, arguing that the symbolic praxis prescribed there regarding widows and elders is thoroughly eschatologically orientated.

Bio: Marty Feltham is PhD candidate in the Ancient History Department at Macquarie University. His research is in the field of New Testament studies on the First Letter to Timothy.

Further information about the 2017 SSEC conference

  • Venue was: Robert Menzies College, Trinity Chapel, 136 Herring Road, North Ryde 2113
  • Time: Arrival at 8:30am.  Lecture sessions start at  9:00am,  Finish time approx 4:45pm
  • Costs: Same as previous year (including lunch and morning tea).  Confirmed as : Society Member $130, Alumni $140, Non Members $145, Pensioners $95, Full-Time Students $55
  • Parking:  We suggest public transport, buses or train to Macquarie University train station.
  • Conference coordinator: Karyn Young by email on
  • Please advise any special dietary requirements by email to Karyn Young to pass onto the chefs at the venue.

Conference Programme was available, click here (PDF 78 KB) Note: You are welcome for the full day, or if you prefer you can come for a lecture or two. At $25 per lecture (SSEC /Concession rate of $20) pay at the door (no lunch provided - if you attend one or two lectures so no need to pre-register.)

Conference brochure was  available. Click here for colour brochure (PDF 926kB)

Call for papers was by 30 November 2016. These papers were for the consideration of the SSEC conference sub committee. Speakers were asked to supply to the following:

  • A firm (or final) topic (that is relevant to the theme),
  • a short Biography including current position,
  • a high resolution portrait photo, (greater than 1MB) in any electronic format (jpg, png, gif etc),
  • an abstract of their paper.

Web page last updated 29 May 2017 by volunteer webmaster

Proceedings 2016

Theme: Everyday life in the time of Jesus of Nazareth

A basket with cooked fish and flat bread in it

Conference curtain raiser 2016 was held on the evening of Thursday 5 May 2016

Speaker: Dr Alan Cadwallader (Australian Catholic University) with his topic Parables, politics and place: who controls land and sea in Mark's Gospel?

Speaker: Dr Rosemary Canavan (University of Divinity) with her topic Jesus Clothed in Purple ... or ScarletDr Rosemary Canavan

Bio: Dr Rosemary Canavan is the Academic Dean of Catholic Theological College and is a member of the Department of Biblical Studies. She has tutored and lectured in Theology and New Testament at the Adelaide College of Divinity, Department of Theology at Flinders University.  Her previous career encompassed management, administration, training and employment services. She also has experience in working as a Pastoral Associate.  She graduated with a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education from ACU. Her doctoral thesis is entitled "Clothing the Body of Christ at Colossae: a Visual Construction of Identity".

She continues to pursue her research interests which focus on the ancient city of Colossae and the Letter to the Colossians, visual exegesis and the Pauline literature in the context of the Roman Empire. Currently her major project is the writing of 1−2 Thessalonians Socio-rhetorical Exploration Commentary at the invitation of Professor Vernon Robbins (Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia USA), on behalf of the Rhetoric in Religious Antiquity (RRA) Editorial Board.

Her publications include: Clothing the Body of Christ at Colossae: A Visual Construction of Identity. WUNT II Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012; "Visual Exegesis: Interpreting Text in Dialogue with its Visual Context" Colloquium: the Australia and New Zealand Theological Review Vol. 47, No. 1 (2015). "Weaving Threads: Clothing in Colossae" in Alan H. Cadwallader (ed.) Fragments from Colossae: Sifting through the Traces, ATF Press, 2015; "Armour, Gladiators and Peace: A Visual Exegesis of Ephesians 6:10-20 in Vernon Robbins, Walter S. Melion and Roy R. Jeal (eds.) Biblical Rhetography through Visual Exegesis of Text and Image, SBL Press forthcoming, 2017.

Conference 2016 was held daytime on Sat 7 May 2016

Theme: Everyday life in the time of Jesus of Nazareth confirmed seven speakers:

  • Professor Cilliers Breytenbach ((Humboldt University of Berlin) Distinguished International Speaker with a topic on "The Making of Mark, eg Daemons and the Spirit 3:20-35", This was exciting news, and it was a real privilege that he has attended our conference.
  • Dr Alan Cadwallader - (Australian Catholic University)  who is the SSEC 2016 Visiting Fellow, with his keynote address: "Sometimes one word makes a world of difference: rethinking the origins of Mark's Gospel"
  • Dr Deslee Campbell, an early Christian and Jewish Studies specialist, "Synagogues Jesus Knew?"
  • Dr John Dickson (PhD & Honorary Fellow Macquarie), "Remembering Stuff: Memory and Education in the Time of Jesus."
  • Dr Chrisopher Forbes (Macquarie University), "Jesus and First-Century Ideas of Purity"
  • Dr Louise Gosbell (PhD Macquarie, and Faculty Mary Andrews College) "The Woman with the Flow of Blood (Mark5:25-34): An example of a 'Disabled' woman in Antiquity"
  • Associate Prof Robert McIver (Avondale Seminary) "The Traditions about Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels: Folklore or Collective Memory?"

Speakers, bios, topics and abstracts

Professor Cilliers Breytenbach

Professor Cilliers Breytenbach (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Bio: Distinguished International Speaker.  This was exciting news, and it was a real privilege that he has attended our conference. Professor Cilliers Breytenbach is Professor for the Literature, History and Religion of Early Christianity, Humboldt University, Berlin, Director of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies, President XXIV Colloqium Oecumenicum Paulinum.

Topic: The Making of Mark, eg Daemons and the Spirit 3:20-35.

Abstract: In writing a modern commentary on Mark, one has to follow a literary critical approach based on narratology. A close study of the way in which the narrator composed his story and the comparison of parallel material of the so-called "Sayings Source" however, open up alleys to answer traditional questions on how sections of the Gospel came into being. Such questions should not be evaded when dealing with the primary evidence on the Jesus Tradition. The lecture will focus on the second subsection (3:13-6:31) of the first part (1:16-8:21) of the Gospel according to Mark.

Visiting Fellow: Dr Alan Cadwallader (Australian Catholic University)

Bio: Dr Alan Cadwallader - SSEC Visiting Fellow 2016 is a Senior Lecturer in Biblical studies, researcher in the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University. His book, Beyond the Word of a Woman (ATF Press, 2008) won the Australian Theology Book of the Year award in 2009.

Keynote address: "Sometimes one word makes a world of difference: rethinking the origins of Mark's Gospel"

Abstract: Alan Cadwallader's special interests are in the Gospel of Mark, for which he is writing the Earth Bible Commentary, and in the ancient site of Colossae which has yielded two major books (with a third projected) and a range of articles. He also researches nineteenth century biblical scholarship, with particular interest in the work of Brooke Foss Westcott, and is writing a book on the political dimensions behind the monumental biblical translation/revision called "The Revised Version". Finally he tries to keep abreast of movements in critical theory as a way of bringing new insights into ancient texts and artefacts. His book, Beyond the Word of a Woman (ATF Press), won the Australasian Theological Book of the Year in 2009.

Dr Deslee Campbel

Dr Deslee Campbell, an early Christian and Jewish Studies specialist

Bio: Dr Deslee Campbell holds two postgraduate awards from Macquarie University, a doctorate from the University of Sydney and is an Early Christian and Jewish Studies specialis.

Topic: "Synagogues Jesus Knew?"

Abstract: The New Testament recorded that Jesus preached in synagogues throughout Galilee (Mk. 1:29) but archaeologists long struggled to find any evidence of First-Century synagogues. A columned building seen at Chorazin in 1926 was regarded sceptically as it disappeared without a trace but in the 1960s Yigael Yadin identified a late-first-century synagogue, with adjacent three-pool ritual bath (mikvah), at Massada.
Much progress has been made since 1995 and this paper, which concentrates upon material evidence pertaining to 'the Jesus period' (the first third of the First-Century C.E.) will present up-to-date information about four recently excavated synagogues, which Jesus may well have known.

Dr John Dickson

Dr John Dickson (PhD & Honorary Fellow Macquarie)

Bio: Dr John Dickson is a PhD Graduate and Honorary Fellow, Macquarie University.

Topic: "Remembering Stuff: Memory and Education in the Time of Jesus."

Abstract: Today, rote learning is often frowned upon as lifeless, dull, and the opposite of true learning. But in antiquity, memorising at least some fixed content was frequently considered the starting point, the foundation, of a genuine education. This paper will probe the possibility that the first Christians, whether Jews or Greeks, were expected to remember a significant body of material about their recently crucified Master.

Dr Chris Forbes

Dr Chrisopher Forbes (Macquarie University)

Bio: Dr Chris Forbes is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Vice President of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity.

Topic: "Jesus and First-Century Ideas of Purity"

Abstract: Most cultures teach their members rules for dealing with the gods, rules for dealing with one another, and rules for dealing with the everyday, material world. These categories are not usually separate, but are either integrated or blur into one another. Broadly speaking, rules for dealing with the gods fall under what we describe as religious duties, and rules for dealing with one another are described as morality or ethics. We have no one category for the rules for dealing with the everyday material world, but "cleanliness" is an important part of this. We define "clean" and "dirty", "neat" and "messy", and similar sets of categories, and they form part of the fundamental mental furniture of our culture. We may disagree about the details of them, but very few people dispute that they are important. When other cultures have rules that differ from ours, we will be tempted to describe their ways of doing things as "superstitions" and "taboos", whereas ours are simply obvious taken-for-granted truths - to us.

Ancient cultures had their own ways of understanding such things, which both overlap with, and differ from our own. The various forms of Judaism in the first century had the Laws of Moses, and their differing interpretations of them, as the codification of their rules. There were rules for how to deal with the God of Israel, rules for dealing with other people (different for other Jews and for Gentiles), and also for dealing with the details of everyday life. These overlapped, because the God of Israel had very clear ideas about how people should relate to one another (we would say: religion dictated morality), but God apparently also had strong views about aspects of the natural world, which do not make obvious sense to 21st century people. Different animals, plants, and events could be described as "holy", "pure" or "clean" (or so we translate), or "unholy", "impure" or "unclean". Though we sometimes try to rationalize these ancient categories with theories derived from our own categories (pork was unclean because of the prevalence of swine fever; "leprosy" was defined as "unclean" because so many skind diseases are contagious; "ceremonial washing" was a "primitive" form of hygiene), these theories are essentially attempts to reformulate cultural concepts we do not understand, from our own cultural standpoint.

If we are to understand the world-view of Jesus and the first (Jewish) Christians, we will have to imaginatively enter into their ideas about what we call "ritual purity". To do that we will need to realise that it overlapped (from our point of view) with both "religious duties" and with "ethics", because purity was (a) commanded by God, and related to dealing with both Him and (b) with other people, as well as (c) with the world around about. Only with a sympathetic understanding of this will we be able to make sense of the various attitudes to "purity" of Jesus, his contemporaries, and his early disciples.

Louise Gosbell

Dr Louise Gosbell (PhD Macquarie, and Faculty Mary Andrews College)

Bio: Dr Louise Gosbell holds a PhD Ancient History, Macquarie University and is on the Faculty of Mary Andrews College

Topic: "The Woman with the Flow of Blood (Mark5:25-34): An example of a 'Disabled' woman in Antiquity"

Abstract: The World Health Organization defines disability as a "complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person's body and features of the society in which he or she lives." Ancient historian Martha Rose, in writing on the issue of disability in the ancient Greek community, states that while the ancient community did not possess an overarching term for disability such as exists in the modern world, they did indeed possess an understanding of the concept of disability - that a physical bodily condition could lead to disablement and the experience of isolation or limitation within one's community. It is this very concept of disability that is reflected in the Synoptic account of the woman with hemorrhage (Mark 5:25-34/Luke 5:42b-48/Matthew 8:20-22). Due to the nature of this woman's condition, or rather, the stigma associated with her condition, the gospel writers highlight the disenfranchisement and isolation experienced by this woman within her own community. The desperation of her situation leads her to seek out Jesus as a source of healing even within the crowded marketplace, despite the potential to pollute others. What the Synoptic writers emphasize though, is in addition to receiving physical healing from Jesus, what she also experiences is an answer to her disablement - the means by which she can rid herself of her stigma and be restored and reconnected back in to her community.

Associate Prof Robert McIver

Associate Prof Robert McIver (Avondale Seminary)

Bio: Associate Professor Robert McIver is an Associate Professor, Avondale Seminary, Chair of the Avondale Academic Board, Director Spirituality and Worship Research Centre and Editor, Avondale Academic Press.  His books include The Four Faces of Jesus.

Topic: "The Traditions about Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels: Folklore or Collective Memory?"

Abstract: Varied methods have been used to study the historical Jesus. For example, since the 19th century, the traditions of Jesus recorded in the Synoptic Gospels have been considered by many scholars as forms of folklore. Of the different types of folklore the categories of myth and legend have been those most frequently invoked, and the historical merits of the traditions found within the Synoptic Gospels have been evaluated in a manner consistent with how other ancient myths and legends are understood. In recent decades, and alongside of other writers who continue to use other approaches to the Gospels traditions, several academics have highlighted the possibility that the Jesus traditions in the Synoptic Gospels should be considered as an example of collective memory. Such writers often invoke the many studies in the discipline of history that show the parameters against which evaluations can be made of the historical reliability of collective memories. This paper considers the work of some of the prominent proponents of the various possibilities for approaching the historical Jesus and the conclusions that they derive from considering the Gospel traditions as folklore on the one hand, or the conclusions others derive from considering the Gospel traditions to be collective memory on the other hand.

It is hoped that speakers at the conference will provide copies of their papers, talks, slide presentations, handouts, diagrams or images from the conference. These documents will be made available in PDF format, in due course. Some papers may also appear in future issues of the SSEC Newsletter.

Disclaimer. SSEC Newsletter Editors' Note: "The Society takes no position on the intellectual content of papers and articles."
"The unique emphasis of our Society is one of history. The study of Early Christianity in its Jewish and Graeco Roman Setting." Prof Alanna Nobbs has asked for this disclaimer to be added to all SSEC correspondence eg SSEC eNewsletters, SSEC website & SSEC facebook etc.

Web page last updated 19 May 2016 by webmaster BJ Eyland

Proceedings 2015

The early Church: Cults and Controversies

  • Day Conference as held on Saturday 2 May 2015
  • Conference Curtain Raiser was held on Thursday 30 April 2015

SSEC Conference Curtain Raiser - The early Church: Cults and Controversies

  • Speaker: Prof Paul Trebilco (Otago) , SSEC Visiting Fellow for 2015
  • Topic: The Artemis Cult in Ephesus and the Johannine Letters
  • Chair: Professor James R. Harrison, (Sydney College of Divinity).

Short Bio: Professor Paul Trebilco holds a PhD from the University of Durham, and is Professor of New Testament Studies in the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. His published books include: Jewish Communities in Asia Minor (Cambridge University Press), The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius (Mohr Siebeck and Eerdmans), and Self-Designations and Group Identity in the New Testament (Cambridge University Press).

Abstract: to come.

Handout: not available for publication. If you want a  copy then contact SSEC office by email, we will snail mail you a paper copy.

Speakers for 2 May 2015

Professor Paul Trebilco

Professor Paul Trebilco (Otago)

Longer Bio: Paul Trebilco is Professor of New Testament. He studied Chemistry at the University of Canterbury, and then did a Bachelor of Divinity at Otago before completing his PhD in the New Testament in 1987 at the University of Durham.

He has published work on the Jewish and Greco-Roman backgrounds to the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle Paul, early Christians in Ephesus, the relationship of Scripture and Church tradition, and the Self-designations used by the earliest Christians in the New Testament.  He is currently the General Editor of the Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series, published by Cambridge University Press.

Topic: Identity Formation in Earliest Christianity: Constructing Outsiders in New Testament Letters

Abstract: How does Paul view people who participated in the cults and worshipped other gods? How did he describe 'non-Christians' - people who lived alongside believers in their cities, but who were not part of Christian groups? One way in which we can discuss this is to look at how Paul responded to 'outsiders', and in particular, how he labeled those outsiders. This paper will consider the different ways in which Paul uses outsider-designations in 1 Corinthians, Romans and 1 Thessalonians. I will argue that in each of these letters Paul uses different outsider-labels at least in part because of the quite different social situation faced by each of these three congregations.

Handout: not available for publication.  If you want a  copy then contact SSEC office by email, we will snail mail you a paper copy.

Professor James R. Harrison(Sydney College of Divinity & Macquarie)

Bio: Professor James Harrison is the Research Director at the Sydney College of  Divinity (SCD) and an Honorary associate of the Macquarie University Ancient History Department.

Topic: Ephesian Cultic Officials, Their Benefactors and the Quest for Civic Virtue:  Paul's Alternate Quest for Status in Ephesians

Abstract: In the eastern Mediterranean basin, one of the many pathways for local elites to establish their superiority and precedence over other powerful families in the city was the acquisition of priesthoods in the imperial and indigenous cults. The social capital of prestige accruing from these priesthoods redounded to the praise of the elite family involved as much as to the particular priest or priestess at Ephesus. The Ephesian honorific inscriptions provide us with many examples of such civic recognition. Furthermore, the benefactions of the wealthy Ephesian elites to the local cults ensured the continuance of piety and honour to the gods, not only vital for the future prosperity of the city, but also another source of social capital for the elites through the civic reciprocation of honour for their benefactions. Both sides of the transaction at Ephesus, the beneficent sponsorship of the cults and the assumption of priesthoods, has been intensively studied by G.M. Rogers in two publications (The Sacred Identity of Ephesos [1991]; The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos [2012]), whereas the role of powerful Ephesian families such as the Vedii in this economy of esteem has been explored by Rosalind Kearsley. No attention has been devoted to the study of the epistle to Ephesians against the honorific capital acquired through the participation in and benefaction of the cults. This is a valuable exercise irrespective of whether Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul or by a later pseudonymous author from the Pauline school. After discussing the Ephesian inscriptional evidence relating to cultic priesthoods and the benefaction of the cults, the paper will explore whether there are any significant intersections with the epistle to the Ephesians regarding the "status identity" of believers. What contribution do they make to the epistle in its original context?

Handout: If you want a  copy then contact SSEC office by email, we will snail mail you a paper copy.

Dr Bruce Winter (Queesnland Theological College)

Bio: is a New Testament scholar and Director of the Institute for Early Christianity in the Graeco-Roman World.

Topic: Exile and Execution: The Swords of Damocles for the First Christians? : Hebrews and Revelation.

Dr Christopher Forbes, (Macquarie Uni)

Bio: Dr Chris Forbes is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity. His fields of research and teaching focus on New Testament history, Alexander the Great and Hellenistic history, Graeco-Roman History of Ideas and the intersection of early Christianity and Graeco-Roman culture. His current research is in the field of the relationship between religion and philosophy in Graeco-Roman thought. He gained his BA (Hons I) Dip.Ed. in Ancient History at Macquarie in 1978, and his PhD in Ancient History in 1987. He has taught at Macquarie in various positions since 1985, full time since 1987, and was appointed Senior Lecturer in 2001. He is a member of the Society for Biblical Literature and the Tyndale Fellowship.  Dr Forbes has been a guest speaker at a number of SSEC Conferences: 2011,  2012  2013, and 2014.

Topic: The Early Christian Churches and their religious environment: "A World full of gods" (Keith Hopkins).

Dr Bernard Doherty (Macquarie)

Bio: Bernard Doherty holds a PhD from Macquarie University.  Bernard is currently a Sessional Lecturer in history and New Religions at St Mark's National Theological Centre (Charles Sturt University) in Canberra and a tutor in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University.  Following his PhD at Macquarie University Bernard was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  In early 2015 Bernard became an Honorary Research Fellow at INFORM (The Information Network on Religious Movements) based at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Topic: Beyond The Myth of Persecution: Toward a Sociological Theory of early Christian Persecution.   (Note change in topic advised on 26 April 2015 from previous topic: Superstitio nova ac malefica ("A New and Wicked Cult") The Social Construction of a Roman "Cult Controversy".).

Abstract: In recent years the persecution of the early Christians has once again become a topic of much debate, not least amid contemporary fears that the besieged Christian communities of the Middle East are heading down an inexorable path toward extinction in their ancestral lands and the ways in which political capital has been garnered by conservative Christian groups invoking the rhetoric of persecution to trump their secular opponents.  Amid these contemporary debates about religious persecution, however, scholars have seldom addressed the way insights from the study of contemporary controversy surrounding New Religious Movements (NRMs) and the "cult controversies" associated with them might contribute to our understanding of the persecution of the earliest Christians.  Drawing on contemporary work on "cult controversies" and looking in particular at historical sources recording the persecution of Christians in the second century and third centuries A.D. this paper will seek to demonstrate how the use of contemporary sociological theories of religious controversy can provide a useful lens through which to illuminate these historical events and provide a better understanding the motifs and methods of the persecutors and how they came to understand the earliest Christians as, to quote Suetonius' Life of Nero, "a new and wicked cult."

Handout: to come (this may possibly be available).

Lyn Kidson (Macquarie PhD Candidate)

Bio: is a PhD candidate at the Macquarie University Ancient History Department.

Topic: False Teachers or Disputing Sophists?

Abstract: Philip Towner in his commentary on The Letters to Timothy and Titus (2006) says the word ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν ( heterodidaskalein) in 1 Timothy 1:3 is a 'rare word'. This is somewhat of an over-statement as this is its first occurrence in the extant Greek literature. Ignatius in his letter to Polycarp (early 2nd C) uses it saying "Let not those that seem to be plausible and yet teach strange doctrine (ἑτεροδιδασκαλοῦντες) (heterodidaskalountes)  dismay thee. Stand thou firm, as an anvil when it is smitten" (Poly.3.1). After this it is picked up by later church fathers (Origen, Eusebius, Basil of Caesarea, Athanasius etc).  This rarity is problematical. It suggests the writer has coined the term himself. How are we to understand his meaning? Is it in terms of disputing sophists so common in the first century, or in terms of 'false doctrine' which can be only located in the context of the early church?

Handout: If you want a  copy then contact SSEC office by email, we will snail mail you a paper copy.

Conference Program

Download 2015 Conference program (PDF 398 kB). A handy one page summary of speakers, program/timetable and topics.   Note: change in topic for Bernard Doherty advised on 26 April 2015 - Beyond The Myth of Persecution: Toward a Sociological Theory of early Christian Persecution.

Disclaimer. SSEC Newsletter Editors' Note: "The Society takes no position on the intellectual content of papers and articles."
"The unique emphasis of our Society is one of history. The study of Early Christianity in its Jewish and Graeco Roman Setting." Prof Alanna Nobbs has asked for this disclaimer to be added to all SSEC correspondence eg SSEC eNewsletters, SSEC website & SSEC facebook etc.

Last updated 17 September 2015

Proceedings 2014

A marble bust of Tiberius Caesar Augustus

Theme - "Christ or Caesar: Render Unto Caesar?"

Conference  curtain raiser - Thursday 1 May 2014 and SSEC Annual Day Conference - Saturday 3 May 2014.

Note: Speaker's photo, bio and abstracts have been loaded onto the website before the conference.

It is hoped that some speakers will agree to have their papers available in due course on this website shortly after the conference. Alternatively their papers may feature in future SSEC newsletters.

Conference  "Curtain Raiser" - Thursday 1 May 2014 and SSEC Annual Day Conference - Saturday 3 May 2014.

Note: Speaker's photo, bio and abstracts have been loaded onto the website before the conference.

It is hoped that some speakers will agree to have their papers available in due course on this website shortly after the conference. Alternatively their papers may feature in future SSEC newsletters.

Last updated  14 October 2014 by SSEC webmaster BJ Eyland

Note:  * Dr Bruce Winter (Queensland Theological College QTC) was regrettably prevented from giving his talk due to ill health.  His topic would have been: You must render to Caesar "divine honours".

Disclaimer. SSEC Newsletter Editors' Note: "The Society takes no position on the intellectual content of papers and articles."
"The unique emphasis of our Society is one of history. The study of Early Christianity in its Jewish and Graeco Roman Setting." Prof Alanna Nobbs has asked for this disclaimer to be added to all SSEC correspondence eg SSEC eNewsletters, SSEC website & SSEC facebook etc.

Our Visiting Speaker was  Professor Brigitte Kahl (Columbia University NY). Professor of New Testament at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

She spoke at both events - Thursday Evening 1 May 2014 and at our Day conference on Saturday 3 May 2014.

Professor Brigitte Kahl

Professor Brigitte Kahl

Bio: SSEC 2014 visiting speaker. She is also the Professor of New Testament at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. Brigitte Kahl is an innovative New Testament scholar whose work has been groundbreaking in Pauline studies. She brings a new perspective to Biblical scholarship by analyzing the dynamic relationship between the New Testament and the Roman Empire.

Topic 1 (Thursday evening) :  If the image speaks - what then is Caesar's?  An iconographic investigation of the tribute question in Mk 12:16 

Topic 2 (Saturday SSEC Conference):  Reclaiming what is not Caesar's:  Paul's theology of cross and justification through the lens of Roman trophies

Abstract : 
The validity of empire-critical readings of Paul and Jesus recently has become a matter of heated debates, including the juxtaposition of Caesar cult and Christ worship. Images, however,  still are surprisingly under-represented as part of the argument. Through the lens of Roman trophies, the cruciform symbol of victory in 1st century imperial iconography, this presentation will trace a complex Pauline construct of embodied theological contestation. While defying simplistic us-versus-them paradigms or resistance , its radical counter-imagination of the cross challenges  some of the most basic underpinnings of Roman religion and rule.

Dr Jim Harrison

Professor James R. Harrison(BA DipEd, MA, PhD (all at Macquarie University)

Bio:  Noted Australian Expert in this field.    Director of Research at Sydney College of Divinity (SCD). Jim joined the SCD in 2013 after fifteen years of teaching New Testament at Wesley Institute, Sydney. He was also Head of Theology at Wesley Institute for 11 years, and before that the Director of the School of Christian Studies at Robert Menzies College. He is a widely published New Testament scholar, authoring 2 monographs on Paul with Mohr Siebeck Press (2003, 2011) and editing two further books (Mohr Siebeck, 2008; Eerdmans, 2012). His research interests include the historical Jesus, the apostle Paul, Second Temple Judaism, the Graeco-Roman world, epigraphy, papyrology, numismatics, and iconography.

Topic: Provincial Galatia and Augustus's "Res Gestae": Paul's Response to the Caesar Cult in the Epistle to the Galatians

Abstract: The most important inscription in the city of Ankara, the provincial capital of Galatia, was the Latin and Greek copy of Augustus' self-eulogy, the Res Gestae. This bilingual copy of the original inscription at Rome - inscribed in bronze at Augustus' mausoleum in 14 AD - was strategically placed in the Temple of Rome and Augustus in Ankara. The Ankara copy, erected c. AD 19-20, is the most complete text of the three copies of the Res Gestae extant in Roman Galatia. Another fragmentary Greek copy was found at Apollonia (c. AD 14-19). An extensive Latin copy was also discovered at Pisidian Antioch (its erection usually not being precisely dated by scholars), along with the 'visual Res Gestae' represented on the iconography of the triple arch of Augustus, which served as the city propylon (gate) leading up to the Sebasteion itself.  Justin Harden has speculated that the concentration of Res Gestae inscriptions in Roman Galatia is explained by the decision of the Galatian koinon to publish Greek and Latin copies of the text in the imperial sanctuaries across the province in AD 19-20, replicating the original text at Rome, with the addition of a Greek and Latin Appendix for provincial readers.  If Hardin is correct, we have to ask what event precipitated this decision in Roman Galatia.
A likely answer is the excitement generated by the mission to the East (AD 18-19) of the charismatic general Germanicus (Tacitus, Ann. 73; Dio 57.18.6), the Roman conqueror of the Germanic tribes (AD 14-16) and possessor of an impeccable Julio-Claudian pedigree. Germanicus visited Galatia in AD 19 as part of a wider tour of subduing feuding and unsettled regions in the East (Tacitus, Ann. 2.54, 59), receiving a rapturous response from the Galatian governor Sotidius in preparation for his visit, and stirring up intense excitement among the Egyptian populace upon his arrival. An inscription from Apollonia (MAMA 4.142), site of the fragmentary Greek copy of the Res Gestae, recounts the diplomatic mission of Apollonius, an imperial priest of the goddess Roma, to meet Germanicus. Presumably Apollonius was either reporting to Germanicus the construction of the Greek monument of the Res Gestae during AD 14-19, or, alternatively, announcing its imminent erection. Thus the elites of the Galatian cities, with a view to securing Julian patronage (AD 19), pressed the koinon to publish the Res Gestae throughout the province upon Germanicus' triumphal tour. The Galatian cities would have vied among themselves for his recognition.
Paul would have undoubtedly seen the Latin version of the Res Gestae at Pisidian Antioch during his visit there (Acts 13:13-32: c. AD 50), as well as its visual rendering on the propylon of the city. The paper asks a series of questions:
(a) Would Paul have been familiar with the contents of the Res Gestae in provincial Galatia? Could Paul have read the Latin copy at Pisidian Antioch? Could there have been a Greek version, now entirely lost to us, also present in the city?
(b) What aspects of the Res Gestae might have grabbed the apostle's attention and why? What new light does this throw on Paul's collision with the Galatian opponents to his gospel in the province (cf. Winter, Lopez, Hardin, Kahl)?
(c) How does Paul's letter to the Galatians engage the 'prosperity' gospel of Augustus? Was this intentional on Paul's part or not?


Professor Laurence Welborn

Professor Laurence Welborn

Bio: Professor of New Testament Studies at Fordham University New York & Macquarie Uni. Professor Laurence Welborn has been a guest speaker at a number of SSEC Conferences: 2006, 2010,  2011 & 2012. His many interests include Paul and his Graeco-Roman context.

Topic: The Political Paul.

Abstract: In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul argues that the goal of relations between those who enjoy abundance in Corinth and those who endure poverty in Jerusalem should be "equality" (isotes).  Paul's attempt to rejuvenate the old Greek ideal of isotes may be illuminated by comparison with the fragmentary writings of a group of philosophers who may be dated to the first century:  Pseudo-Archytas, Diotogenes, Sthenidas, Ecphantus.


Associate Professor Tom Hilliard

Associate Professor Tom Hillard (BA Hons Syd., PhD Macquarie)

Bio: Educated at the University of Sydney, the University of New England and Macquarie, Dr Tom Hillard is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ancient History and a member of the Ancient Cultures Research Centre. He has served as Deputy Dean of the Division of Humanities, but prefers a commitment to teaching, research and community outreach. His research interests are broad, but focus principally on Roman social history, and the politics of the Late Roman Republic.

Topic: The Roman Emperors, Messianic Hopes and Apocalyptic Anxieties: Another Side of the Imperial Ruler Cult


When the Pharisees and 'Herodians' famously tried to draw him into a potentially dangerous trial of wits over taxation, Jesus famously replied "Give back (or yield) the things that are Caesar's to Caesar and the things belonging to God to God."

Greek for Tom Hillard
(Mark 12:17; cf. Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26)

Jesus seems to offer a clear-cut dichotomy of worlds, akin to those envisaged in the watchwords 'God and Mammon' (Matthew 6:24), 'Athens and Jerusalem', 'Rome (sc. the caput mundi) and the City of God (civitas Dei)'. The distinction has a resonance that has ensured its place in modern thought. One thinks of the 3rd volume of Will Durant's monumental 11-volume The Story of Civilization (1935-1975): Caesar and Christ (1944).
The paper will suggest that Jesus' response played neatly on the question put to him, but carried a profoundly more challenging demand. The demands of the Roman imperial government in the age of Augustus, perhaps embedded in cult and metaphor rather than explicit, had blurred the distinction between the two worlds that we take as established.
The paper will set the early Christian movement in the context of the apocalyptic anxieties and Messianic hopes that were circulating in the Mediterranean world at that time. We shall began with the hopes and fears of a New Age that gripped Rome in 88 B.C., and then we shall focus upon the burgeoning imperial cult. We shall pause for a moment on Vergil's famous 4th Eclogue, picturing "the advent of an age of peace and rural felicity such as every Roman heart may well have longed for." (T.E. Page)  By the end of the first century, the cult was established throughout the empire. In AD 79, on his deathbed and confronted by his all too apparent mortality, the emperor Vespasian famously quipped, 'Oh dear, I think I'm turning into a god.' The brave humour ought not to distract us. Vespasian expected no less. The paper will explore the extent to which the imperial cult had affected the popular mind.


Dr Chris Forbes

Dr Chris Forbes (BA (Hons), PhD Macquarie University)

Bio: Dr Chris Forbes is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity. His fields of research and teaching focus on New Testament history, Alexander the Great and Hellenistic history, Graeco-Roman History of Ideas and the intersection of early Christianity and Graeco-Roman culture. His current research is in the field of the relationship between religion and philosophy in Graeco-Roman thought. He gained his BA (Hons I) Dip.Ed. in Ancient History at Macquarie in 1978, and his PhD in Ancient History in 1987. He has taught at Macquarie in various positions since 1985, full time since 1987, and was appointed Senior Lecturer in 2001. He is a member of the Society for Biblical Literature and the Tyndale Fellowship.  Dr Forbes has been a guest speaker at a number of SSEC Conferences: 2011,  2012 and 2013.

Topic:  Christ and Caesar:  Friends, Foes, or a False Antithesis?  An Outline of the Issues

Abstract: The relationship between the early Christian churches and the Roman government and local authorities was never likely to be straightforward. The Christian movement was born out of the execution of Jesus by the Roman authorities, under pressure from the Jerusalem establishment. The legal status of the Christian movement was never clearly defined vis-a-vis the wider Jewish community, and Roman officials clearly had trouble deciding whether the churches caused more trouble than they were worth. Uneasy toleration in the 50s of the 1st Century was replaced by opportunistic persecution in Rome under Nero in the 60s, and again in Asia Minor, as reported and dramatised by the Book of Revelation.

Whatever the legal status of persecution after the death of Nero and the subsequent revocation of his acts by the Roman senate, simply "being a Christian" was clearly treated as a capital offence under Trajan, Hadrian and their successors.  The later, more systematic persecutions broadened the scope of the problem the early Christians faced: was it in any sense possible to offer Caesar what Caesar demanded? Nor was the issue fully resolved, centuries later, by the conversion of Constantine: the claims of Caesar and those of Christ were still, for many, in competition with one another. Was it possible to be fully loyal to both, or was that an impossible attempt to be a servant of two masters? In times of conflict Christians often protested that their ultimate loyalty to God made them better citizens, but it's clear that "Caesar" was not always convinced.

Where did the writers of the New Testament stand on this issue? To what extent did they recommend that their readers submit to the political and civil authorities? Though at least one central passage, Romans 13:1-7, has normally been seen as unequivocal in its demand for submission, Jesus' own qualification, "and to God the things that are God's" raises more than a suspicion that there must have been limits. Further, scholarship over the last thirty years has often suggested that the New Testament writers take a more subtle line, avoiding direct confrontation with the authorities, while simultaneously undercutting or subverting mainstream values in favour of their own counter-cultural agendas. In particular, the churches have been pictured as a kind of "alternative society", within which a new values-system trumped the values of their Imperial Roman context. This view has the advantage of explaining why the churches were mistrusted as culturally subversive: they were! However, so the argument goes, the early radicalism of the churches was slowly abandoned by the mainstream, as (particularly after Constantine) cultural conformity became a more comfortable option.

Much of the characteristic language of the early Christians - language of divine sonship, "good news", "grace", "salvation", and  "faith" - echoed language also used by the dominant ideology of the Empire, and particularly by the cult of the emperor. Had the Christians simply uncritically borrowed terminology which was "in the air", or were they deliberately seeking to present an alternative view? This introductory lecture will lay out the main lines of the current discussion, and focus on a number of central case studies, to ask the question: did the New Testament writers intend their first audience to submit to the authorities, to resist them (but peacefully), to subvert them and to embody a counter-cultural alternative, or what?


Norman Young

Norm Young

Bio: Dr Norman Young did his doctoral research under Professor F. F. Bruce and later an MLitt (Classics) at UNE. He lectured at Avondale College of Higher
for many years. In his retirement he has focused on John's Gospel. He has been a member of the "Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas" since 1974 and the "Society for the Study of Early Christianity" from its inception.

Topic: The Man born to be King - John 18:28 - 19:22

Abstract: The Fourth Gospel's (FG) account of Jesus' trial before Pontius Pilate has some affinities with Mark and-to a lesser degree-with Luke's narrative; but overall, John marches according to his own drum-beat. The most obvious difference between the FG's account of the Roman Trial and the Synoptics is their length. The FG devotes 593 words to its account (18.28-19.16) of the trial compared with 338 words for Matthew (27.11-31), 265 for Mark (15.1-20), and 252 for Luke (23.1-5, 13-25). However, a more startling difference is the FG's positioning of the scourging and the Roman soldiers' mocking of Jesus in the midst of Pilate's investigation of the charges against Jesus. Matthew and Mark place these events at the end of Pilate's interrogation of Jesus, just prior to his being handed over to be crucified. In contrast the FG situates them in the midst of Pilate's inquiry, that is, as scene four (John 19.1-3) of the seven scenes that form the FG's trial narrative. Thus John distances the scourging and the troops' mockery from Pilate's handing Jesus over to be crucified. Why does he do this? He does it for dramatic effect: so as to forcefully portray the abused, pitiable, and mocked Jesus, as indeed being the true King (Messiah) of Israel. Hence the FG's remarkably frequent use of Greek for Norman Young in its trial narrative.

Paper: To follow conference - will appear in September 2014 SSEC newsletter.

Paul Yeates

Paul Yeates

Bio:  Paul Yeates is Dean of Students at Robert Menzies College, Sydney and a PhD candidate in Ancient History at Macquarie University.

Topic: Blaspheming Heaven: Revelation 13:4-8 and the Competition for Heaven in Roman Imperial Ideology and the Theology of John.

Abstract: Just as John lived on earth under the rule of Flavian Rome, so too, according to Roman imperial ideology, he lived under a Flavian heaven.  In  its military and diplomatic endeavours Rome sought to eliminate any potential threat to its power that lay beyond its borders.  In a similar way, in its ideology, it denied the existence of any threatening place or power even beyond the ends of the earth, i.e. in the heavenly realm.

A key strategy that John employs as he seeks to persuade his audience to conquer in their situations is to establish that there is an all-powerful hostile force beyond Rome's borders that is about to act and there is a safe territory for those who conquer through death.  John displaced the Flavian heaven with a heaven belonging to the Christ.

Paper: To follow conference - will appear in September 2014 SSEC newsletter.

Other Speakers

  • Presentation: Coins from New Testament Times. Colin E. Pitchfork
  • Q & A Session with expert panel - conducted by Dr Christopher Forbes.
  • Book Launch of Two Books conducted by  Dr John Dickson namely:
    • New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity Volume 10 &
    • All Things To All Cultures
New Testament Documents 

New Documents Illustrating
Early Christianity Volume 10:
Greek and Other Inscriptions and Papyri

Published 1988-1992
Editors: S.R. Llewelyn
& J.R. Harrison
Associate Editor: E.J. Bridge
PAPERBACK; Published: 11/29/2012,   279 Pages
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Published in association with the Ancient Cultures Research Centre (ACR) at Macquarie University

All things to all cultures 

All Things to All Cultures, Paul among Jews, Greeks & Romans

Mark Harding & Alanna Nobbs

Paperback published: 28 November 2013, 426 Pages

ISBN: (78-0-8028-6643-1)

Proceedings 2013

Dura-Europa Synagogue Mosaic

Conference  curtain raiser - Thursday 2 May 2013

  • Professor James McLaren (ACU), Topic: Jewish actions against the followers of Jesus: reassessing the evidence within the context of the Roman Empire
  • and Associate Professor Louise Hitchcock (Associate Professor of Aegean Bronze Age Archaeology at Melbourne University) Topic: Philpocalypse Now! Changing the Philistine Narrative at Tell es-Safi/Gath

Professor James McLaren (ACU)

Professor James McLaren

Bio: James McLaren is Professor of Ancient History and Biblical Studies in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at Australian Catholic University. He is also currently the Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty and is a member of the Centre for Early Christian Studies.
After undertaking a BA (Hons) and MA (Melb) James completed his DPhil (Oxon) in 1990. His main research interests relate to the interaction between the Jewish and Roman worlds and the emergence of Christianity in the first century CE. He is the author of numerous books, book chapters and journal articles on aspects of Jewish, Roman and early Christian history, including Power and Politics in Palestine (1992) and Turbulent Times? (1998). He is co-editor of the forthcoming volume, Attitudes towards Gentiles in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature (Continuum, 2013). His two major current projects are a book exploring the execution of Jesus as an historical event and a history of the Jewish-Roman war of 66-70 CE. He is also a member of the Brill Project, an international team of scholars translating and writing a commentary on the works of Flavius Josephus, in which he is working on book 7 of  Jewish War.
He is currently a member of the editorial Board for the Society of Biblical Literature's Early Jewish Writings monograph series, serves on the Asia-Pacific Liaison Committee of the Society for New Testament Studies and has been the New Testament Editor of Australian Biblical Review for over twelve years. In 2012 he was awarded the Krister Stendahl Medal in Biblical Studies by the Graduate Theological Foundation, USA.

Topic: Jewish actions against the followers of Jesus: reassessing the evidence within the context of the Roman Empire  

A major component of Acts of the Apostles is the regularity with which Jesus' followers are the subject of official sanction, largely at the instigation of various Jewish authorities. By reviewing the actions within the context of late second Temple period Jewish society several recent discussions have argued there is both a consistency and continuity in why action was undertaken. In turn, these approaches have also resulted in an affirmation of the historical veracity of the narrative in Acts: active, formal Jewish opposition to Christianity was instigated from the outset. There is, however, another important contextual layer that warrants further consideration: the imperial Roman context. From evidence regarding the functioning of provincial administration in Judea it will be argued that the ability of the Jewish community to oversee matters of law and order was severely restricted under Roman rule. It will be proposed that the author of Acts has extrapolated from the case of Paul a wider extent of authority than was actually held; probably in order to help sustain the view that the early community was not a threat to Roman order and that any threat to social cohesion was merely an internal Jewish matter (Acts 18:14-15).

Dr Louise Hitchcock

Bio: A UCLA graduate, Associate Professor Louise Hitchcock has extensive archaeological experience in the east Mediterranean, including time as Parsons Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, a senior Fulbright Fellow at the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute in Cyprus; and as a USAID Fellow, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, and the Visiting Annual Professor at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem; and a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, as well as excavation work in Israel, Egypt, Syria, Crete, and California. She is author of more than 40 articles on architecture and gender in the east Mediterranean. Her 4 books include, Minoan Architecture: A Contextual Analysis, (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology Pocket Book 155) Jonsered: Paul Astroms Forlag (2000); Aegean Art and Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1999), co-authored with Donald Preziosi; Theory for Classics, Routledge (2008); and Aegaeum 29, DAIS: The Aegean Feast (co-edited with Robert Laffineur and Janice Crowley). She is currently involved in  excavating the site of Tell es-Safi/Gath with Prof. Aren Maeir of Bar Ilan University.

Topic: Philpocalypse Now! Changing the Philistine Narrative at Tell es-Safi/Gath

Abstract: To be a 'Philistine' has entered our language to mean uncouth or barbaric, a perception deeply situated in biblical thought. Just as the Greeks described non-Greek neighbours as 'Barbarians,' so too did the Biblical writers describe people settled along the southern coast of the Levant in derogatory terms. Current scholarship regards them as Sea People migrating from Greece (ca. 1180 BC) and colonizing the coast of southern Canaan. I will present recent results from the archaeological excavations at the Philistine site at Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel), the city associated with Goliath in the Bible.  The archaeological remains of the Philistines reveal them to be a culturally mixed group that resulted as an outcome of multiple groups of migrants that settled among the local Canaanite population creating a socially and economically advanced, technologically innovative (iron production), artistically sophisticated (decorated Mycenaean-Greek style pottery), and cosmopolitan culture that positively influenced the surrounding region.

SSEC Annual Day Conference - Saturday 4 May 2013

Professor James McLaren (ACU), Keynote Speaker

Topic: The fire in Rome in 64 C.E.: a key moment in early Jewish-Christian relations?

Abstract: The central contention of this paper is that the persecution of Christians by Nero in 64 C.E. was a major factor in shaping the nature and the extent to which Jews became the target of attack in early Christian literature. The first part of the study will review the decision of Nero to use the Christians in Rome as a scapegoat for the fire that ravaged the city in 64 C.E. It will be argued that Jews played an important role in helping to identify and distinguish the Christians from the larger Jewish community in the city. In the second part we will review the depiction of Jews and the Jewish way of life in early Christian writings. It will be argued that the critical, negative image of things Jewish largely belongs to literature dated after the fire, with the Gospel of Mark playing a fundamental role in this process. In the immediate aftermath of Nero's action, as the gospel tradition took formal literary shape, it was the Jews and their way of life that became the open, primary target of criticism and ridicule rather than the Roman imperial authorities.

Paper, Slides or handout: To come.

Dr John Dickson Dr John Dickson

Bio: Is a Founding Director of the Centre for Public Christianity and Honorary Fellow of the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University.  He also teaches on the historical Jesus for the Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney.

Topic: What is 'Teaching'?  Preserving oral tradition in the synagogue and the church.

Abstract: Much has been made in the history of the church of the Pauline prohibition "I do not permit a woman to teach". The verb 'teach' (didaskein) has usually been seen as a catch-all term for the many and varied speeches that might be given in church. This paper challenges this assumption by offering an historically sensitive and exegetically sensitive analysis of the relevant texts, set against the backdrop of the important Jewish and Christian didactic activity of laying down authoritative oral traditions. Whatever one makes of modern debates about women's ministry, 'teaching' in the Pauline communities performed a function quite unlike that of the contemporary 'sermon'.

Paper, Slides or handout:  Summary of Talk What is Teaching? Dr John Dickson in PDF (111KB)

Dr Rosalinde Kearsley

Dr Rosalinde Kearsley

Topic:Jews and Christians in First Century Rome

Bio: Senior Honorary Research Fellow, in the Department of Ancient History, at Macquarie University. She has visited Turkey regularly since 1988 in order to study archaeological and inscriptional remains of the Graeco-Roman cities of Asia Minor. In recent years she has also been part of the teaching team at an in-country summer school for Australian university students based in Antalya.

Paul wrote to those in Rome, in or around 57. By that time, there was a diversity of views in Rome on what it meant to be a Christian and how the Christian life should be lived. Paul speaks into this inharmonious situation very strongly and, with all the conviction of his distinctive God-given apostolate, he argues that the Old Covenant and its ways had now been replaced. While there is much of theological interest to consider in the text of the letter itself, there is also much of historical interest left unspoken. Silence about the circumstances which gave rise to the theological and social situation Paul was addressing in Rome, provokes the historian's curiosity. Paul's letter gives rise to, but does not answer, questions about the planting of the gospel in Rome and about the composition of the earliest Christian community. Simply put, such questions include the following: When did the gospel reach Rome? How did it do so? What was its impact? Chapter 16 of Romans, which includes a long list of personal names, has been used by many scholars as a resource for investigating these questions and related matters. 'Jews and Christians in First Century Rome' will do so again. It will go over some old ground and it will also attempt to contribute something new, or at least different, towards our current hypotheses about Christians in Rome prior to the arrival of Paul's letter.

Barnett, P., Romans (Christian Focus, Fearn, Ross-shire, 2003)
Bauckham, R., Gospel Women. Studies in the Named Women in the Gospels (Eerdmanns, Grand Rapids, 2002)
Donfried, K.P. ed., The Romans Debate (Rev ed., Hendrickson, Peabody Mass. 1991)
Donfried, K.P. - Richardson, P. eds, Judaism and Christianity in First Century Rome (Eerdmans, 1998)
Dumbrell, W., Romans. A New Covenant Commentary (Second ed., Redeemer Baptist Press Parramatta, 2012)
Epp, E.J., Junia. The First Woman Apostle (Fortress Press Minneapolis 2005)
Judge, E. A., 'The Social Pattern of the Christian Groups in the First Century', Social Distinctives of the
Christians in the first century: pivotal essays
., ed. D. M. Scholer, (Hendrickson, Peabody Mass., 2008), 1-56
Judge, E.A., 'The Origin of the Church at Rome: A New Solution?', The First Christians in the Roman World:
Augustan and New Testament Essays
, ed. J.R. Harrison (Mohr Siebeck, Tubingen, 2008), 442-455
Kearsley, R. A., 'Women in Public Life in the Roman East: Iunia Theodora, Claudia Metrodora and Phoebe,
benefacress of Paul', Tyndale Bulletin 50 (1999), 189-211
Kruse, C.G., Paul's Letter to the Romans (Pillar NT Commentary, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2012)

Paper, Slides or handout: To come

Dr Chris Forbes

Dr Chris Forbes

Bio: Lecturer of New Testament History, the Classical Tradition and the Hellenistic Age at Macquarie Uni.  Research Interest: New Testament studies; Hellenistic history and history of ideas; the intersection of early Christianity and Graeco-Roman culture

Topic: An Apostle to the Gentiles and to the Jews as well?

St. Paul is usually characterised as "the apostle to the Gentiles", but this common description masks at least two issues. First, Acts only once describes him as an apostle at all (Acts 14:1-6), and his own letters, though they regularly describe him as "an apostle" never use the definite article to specify that he is "the" apostle to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:7-8 could be read as implying that conclusion, but need not.
Second, in their differing ways, both Acts and Paul's own letters make it clear that Paul regularly preached to Jews as well, and indeed, usually preached to them before he preached to Gentiles. This is explicit in Acts, where Paul regularly preaches in a synagogue as his first "port of call" in a new area. It is also implicit in Romans, where three times Paul specifies that his gospel is "for the Jew first, and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16, 2:9- 11). Paradoxically, in the next sentence he continues: "God shows no partiality." God is not partial, but it seems He does have priorities! Of the twenty-two times Paul uses the terms "Jew/s" and"Greek/s" in close conjunction, in only four cases does he put the term "Greek" (or its equivalent) first. Now this is not surprising: Paul is himself Jewish, and would naturally think of his own people first. But the question must be asked: what role did Paul see for himself, as apostle to the Gentiles, with the Jews? And how did he define these two "spheres": ethnically, geographically, or in some other way? Acts provides us with some hints here, as Paul regularly speaks within a Jewish context first, and only goes "to the Gentiles (exclusively?)" when rejected by the local Jewish community (or most of them). But it is to Romans 9-11 that we must turn to see the strongest evidence for Paul's belief that, as apostle to the Gentiles, he had an ongoing role among Jews as well. That passage will be the focus of the lecture.

C. Johnson-Hodge, If Sons then Heirs: a Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul, Oxford/New York:
Oxford University Press, 2007. R.D. Aus, "Paul's Travel Plans to Spain and the 'Full Number of the Gentiles' of
Rom. XI 25," NovT 21.3 (1979), 232-62., Provoked to Jealousy.
R.H. Bell, Provoked to Jealousy: The Origin and Purpose of the Jealousy Motif in Romans 9-11, Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1994).
D.K. Buell & C. J. Hodge, "The Politics of Interpretation: The Rhetoric of Race and Ethnicity in Paul," JBL
123.2, 2004, 235-51.
T.J. Burke, Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor, Nottingham/Downers Grove, IL: Apollos/Intervarsity, 2006.
W.S. Campbell, Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity, London/New York: T. & T. Clark, 2008.
J.A. Staples, "What do the Gentiles have to do with 'All Israel'? A Fresh Look at Romans 11:25-27," JBL 130.2 (2011), 371-90.
D.I. Starling, Not My People: Gentiles as Exiles in Pauline Hermeneutics, Berlin, de Gruyter, 2011.

Paper, Slides or handout: To come.

Dr Brent Nongbri and Mary Jane Cuyler

Mary Jane Cuyler in the fieldBios:
Mary Jane Cuyler is completing a PhD in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney.  She is field director of OSMAP excavations of the synagogue at Ostia.

Dr Brent Nongbri is a Macquarie University Research Fellow in the Department of Ancient History.  His specialties include early Christian manuscripts and methodological problems in the study of ancient religion. Dr Brent Nongbri in the field

Topic: Joint report on the Ostia synagogue area excavations (OSMAP) conducted by the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin.

Although the presence of a thriving Jewish community at Rome had long been known from ancient literary evidence, the continuous occupation of the Eternal City has prevented the identification of its earliest synagogues. Thus, the fortuitous discovery of an ancient synagogue at Ostia, Rome's nearest and oldest port city, made headlines around the world in the early 1960s. The synagogue at Ostia is clearly one of the oldest in Europe, but just how old is it? The original excavator, Maria Floriani Squaciapino, assigned the earliest phase of the structure to the first century AD, but her final excavation reports were never published. To this day, the majority of her private notes and writings concerning the synagogue excavations remain inaccessible. In 2001, a team led by Professor L. Michael White of the University of Texas at Austin began a detailed reexamination of the masonry of the synagogue and the other buildings in its vicinity, which led to a reopening of excavations at the synagogue in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2012. The re-excavation process has not only shed light upon the largely undocumented techniques and tactics used in the original excavation, but also allowed us to correlate information from the archival material with the different strata excavated by Floriani Squarciapino. Even more significantly, we have excavated completely untouched areas of the synagogue, and in some instances we have been able to identify clear stratigraphic sequences. On the one hand, our findings suggest that the first phases of construction in the synagogue area are most likely at least a century later than previously thought. On the other hand, it seems that the building continued to be used and renovated well into the late antique period. Our results also shed new light on the development of the coastal region of Ostia. Our presentation will share some of these fascinating discoveries.
Season-by-season preliminary reports are available on the web at the (link no longer available to article 2 Feb 2015).

Summary of Talk:   Since we will be reporting on unpublished materials from the synagogue at Ostia, we are not able to permit our talk to be recorded, but we should be able to provide a summary or handout.   A summary of the talk, (PDF 29KB) which is slightly expanded version of the abstract has been provided.

Dr Marianne Dacy Marianne Dacy

Bio: Archivist/Librarian/Australian Judaica at University of Sydney.

Topic: Jewish Influences on early Church Liturgy

The evolution of Christian liturgy and its relationship with Jewish liturgy is a complex issue. Though Christian liturgy has retained a Jewish base, an examination of the elements retained in early Christianity indicates that many of these belonged to the time when the temple still stood. Such elements include the names of temple functionaries, such as readers, lectors, levites, and singers. The fact that these names do not occur in New Testament texts, suggests a later appropriation from the Hebrew Bible. Other elements are ceremonial actions such as processions and prostrations, and the antiphonal nature of prayers. Scripture reading, which was an essential element in the early synagogue liturgy was retained in the structure of Christian liturgy. A talmudic reference (Y. Sanh 29c) records that when the temple was destroyed, there were twenty-four kinds of Judaism. It was in this climate that Christianity started out as another expression of Judaism. In addition, there was a wide overlapping between church and synagogue on the level of popular piety as well as in the official stance, at least until the end of the fourth century.
Margaret Barker, Temple Themes in Christian Worship (London: T.& T. Clark, 2007) has looked exhaustively at elements that have temple roots, seeing the church as the conscious continuation of temple worship. See especially chapter 2, 19-44.
Wolfram Kinzig, '"Non-Separation"': Closeness and Co-Operation between Jews and Christians in the Fourth Century', VC 45 (1991): 29.

Paper, Slides or handout: Download a shortened version or summary of this paper. PDF(126KB).  Full version of the paper (PDF 240KB)  has now become available on the website.

Rev Dr Erica Mathieson

Photo: To come.

Bio: Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University

Topic: Jewish Women: Evidence from the papyri

The papyri are an unparalleled source of information about women in the ancient world. This paper will identify the papyri that refer to Jewish women from 100 CE to 400 CE and examine a selection of them to discover what can be known about their lives and experiences. The period 100 CE to 400 CE begins with the years prior to the Jewish War of 115-117 CE, includes the War and then covers the re-emergence of Jewish communities after the war. The time-frame also includes the years of the spread of Christianity in Egypt to the end of the fourth century. A variety of documents referring to Jewish women survive from the period: a census return, receipts for the Jewish tax, a manumission, texts relating to property matters and to Jewish relations with non-Jews both during the Jewish War and after. No private letters written by or to Jewish women have survived.

Paper, Slides or handout: to come.

Jennifer Turner Migliore Jennifer Miglior

Bio: PhD Student at Sydney University.

Jennifer Migliore is currently completing a PhD on cosmological mosaics in late antiquity at the University of Sydney. Her Master of Arts was completed at the University of Adelaide and dealt with iconography found in churches in 6th century Jordan. Her interests include identity issues in late antiquity, mosaic iconography, the transition from paganism to Christianity and the relationship between Jews and Christians in Palestine.

Topic: Cosmological mosaics and Christian and Jewish identities in late antique Palestine

Floor mosaics bearing depictions of the sun god Helios/Sol and the zodiac signs or personifications of the months have been found in both a Christian monastery and numerous Jewish synagogues in late antique Palestine. The synagogue mosaics bearing this iconography (which consists of the sun god surrounded by the zodiac signs) are found in various regions of the province. However, in order to best examine Jewish and Christian identities and their relationship with each other in late antique Palestine, my paper will focus on two mosaics in particular. Of these two mosaics, one comes from a Christian context: the Monastery of the Lady Mary at Beth She'an, and the other comes from a Jewish context: the synagogue at Beth Alpha. These two mosaics have been selected because they are both datable to the sixth century CE and were also produced for places of worship that were located within the same region. These similarities of dating and provenance allow this paper to examine some of the identity issues affecting both Christians and Jews with greater clarity.

Therefore, this paper looks at Christian and Jewish communal identities in sixth-century Palestine, using these two cosmological mosaics as an analytical tool. Because both mosaics come from in and around the Beth She'an region, this paper can focus on the historical, cultural and religious context of this part of Palestine in the sixth century, and can use this background to explain the formation and expression of Jewish and Christian identities. This context also helps to explain how these identities were constructed through contact with one another. Although the literary evidence often suggests hostility between the two religious communities; this literature was often produced by the leaders of these communities. Therefore, do some of the artistic similarities found in these two mosaics suggest that Christian and Jewish community members and patrons were more inclined than their religious leaders to borrow cultural and artistic elements from each other? This paper also examines the question: what sort of cultural and religious identity was constructed by each of these communities through their contact with one another - and was then expressed through the mosaic art in their places of worship?

Paper, Slides or handout:  (coming in due course)

Q & A Session

President of the Society, Professor Alanna Nobbs chaired this session to conclude the conference. This included a panel of experts.  The session always proves to be an informative and enjoyable end to the day.

Papers are given by members of staff or postgraduates of the University or similar institutions. The society places no restriction on the intellectual content of the papers and takes no position on their conclusions.  The views expressed are those of the individual speakers.

Proceedings 2012

Houses build into stone walls

Conference curtain raiser held Thursday 3 May 2012

  • Dr Konstantinos D. Polits Director of the Hellenic Society for Near Eastern Studies in Greece.  His topic was Topographical Mosaics.
  • Dr Peter Edwell (Macquarie Uni) lectures in Roman Near Eastern Province in Late Antiquity.   His topic was Christian Art & Archaeology at Dura Europos.

Conference held Saturday 5 May 2012

1) Keynote Speaker was Dr Konstantinos D. Politis. He is currently Director of the Hellenic Society for Near Eastern Studies in Greece. He is an archaeologist working in Jordan & Syria. He has previously held a job in the Department of Later and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum.  His topic was The monastery of Aghios Lot at Deir 'Ain 'Abata in Jordan.

Abstract: The Monastery of Aghios Lot is located at the south-eastern end of the Dead Sea on a steep mountain slope overlooking the modern town of Safi (biblical Zoara) in Jordan. It is accurately depicted as the Sanctuary of Aghios Lot (see translation below), next to ZOORA on the early Byzantine mosaic floor map at Madaba in Jordan.  Sanctuary of Aghios Lot

As revealed by the excavations, the Monastery of Aghios Lot consisted of an early Byzantine monastic complex with a number of hermits' cells above it. The focal point was a tripled-apsed basilica church built around a natural cave which early Christians believed was where Lot and his daughters took refuge after the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19). It is flanked to the south by a large reservoir and to the north by a refectory with an oven, a communal burial chamber and a pilgrim's hostel. The church is adorned by five mosaic floor pavements inscribed in Byzantine-period Greek and dated to A.D. 572/3, April 605/7 A.D. and May 691 A.D. Three other Greek inscriptions on stone which invoke Aghios Lot, confirm the Christian identification of the site as Lot's Sanctuary.

The bulk of the material finds date to the early Byzantine period (ca. 5th-7th centuries A.D.) and is associated to the church and monastery. The presence of late Hellenistic pottery (1st century B.C.-1st century A.D.) accounts for the earliest occupation. Early Bronze Age I (ca. 3000 B.C.) and Middle Bronze Age II (ca. 2000-1500 B.C.) burials in the cave and around the monastery allude to the area of 'Ain 'Abata as being a sacred one even in pre-Christian times. The final occupation of the site was during the early Abbasid Caliphate (late 8th to early 9th centuries A.D.) which could indicate a continued veneration of Lot in the vicinity by Christians and Muslims alike. Download PDF  as follows:

2 ) Dr Amelia Brown lectures in Greek History & Language at University of Queensland. Her interests include Greece in late Antiquity & Mediterranean Maritime History. Her topic was Archaeological Evidence for the Missions of Saint Paul.

Abstract: Paul was one of the most energetic travellers of the early Church, so archaeological evidence for his missions may be sought over much of the eastern Mediterranean. The book of Acts and his letters allow the modern reader of the Bible to follow Saint Paul's 1st-century journeys quite closely, from his origins in Tarsus, to Damascus and Jerusalem, and then on to his missions in Asia Minor, Greece and westwards through shipwreck in Malta to Rome. Pilgrims today may even undertake Saint Paul-themed tours at some archaeological sites, but such tours are often dominated by monuments built longer after his visit, or unconnected to his context in the Jewish community of each city. In this paper I discuss some recent excavations which shed light on the specific context of Saint Paul's missions in Cyprus, Ephesus, Thessaloniki, Corinth and Malta. Archaeology has benefits and drawbacks as a source for Paul's missions, and its limitations must be understood. However selected artefacts, monuments and landscapes can provide a better understanding of Paul's letters and the travel narrative of Acts.        Download Dr Amelia Brown Slides in PDF format (836KB)

3)  Dr Kate da Costa (Uni of Syd), archaeologist, studying the Roman borders of Arabia and Palaestina and field work in north West Jordan.    Her topic was A mystery building at Pella in Jordan: preliminary results of the 2011 season.

Abstract : High on the slopes of Jebel Abu el-Khas at Pella in Jordan are the ruins of two structures, reached by monumental staircases, and sharing unusual green marble columns. The late Anthony McNicoll, co-director in 1979 of the then new University of Sydney excavations at Pella, theorized that one structure was probably a Roman-period temple, the other a church built from spolia. He chose to excavate the southern building, which indeed was revealed as a 5th century basilical church, similar but smaller than, the other two churches known at Pella. After a long gap, in 2011 the University of Sydney team started work on the northern building. Within days it was clear that this too was not a Roman-period temple, but it was also clear it was not a conventional church. By the end of the season approximately one third of the building has been excavated. It appears to have been constructed around the same time as the East church to its south, and was being used as a domestic structure when finally destroyed in the massive 749AD earthquake. With elaborate and extensive wall mosaics, an internal apse, an ambulatory paved with mosaics at the rear of the building, and exedrae framing the narrow terrace before the three entrance doors, this was quite clearly the most important and prominent Christian building in Late Antique Pella. But what was its function?

Download unavailable (Note: Kate da Costa advised on 3 August 2012 that "but because of obligations in Jordan, I am unable to provide any material for the SSEC conference proceedings or website.  At least the audience should know that they have seen something that has not yet been published, and so they now know more than anyone else in the world about our mystery building!").

4) Dr Caillan Davenport (Uni of Queensland), lectures in Classics and Ancient History.   His topic was Biblical Images and Allusions in Late Roman Imperial Ideology

Abstract : The reign of Constantine (A.D. 306-337) was a turning point in the history of the Roman empire: for the first time, the emperor was not only a Christian, but took an active interest in the promotion of the religion. The accession of a Christian ruler had profound implications for the way in which the emperor was depicted in state monuments, such as statues and imperial mausolea, as well as coins, inscriptions, and other media. This paper will examine artistic and literary representations of the emperor and the imperial family from the Constantinian period until the end of the empire in the west (A.D. 476) to determine the extent to which biblical models and themes influenced the development of Roman imperial ideology. It will place particular emphasis on comparing the 'official' public image of the emperors generated by the imperial administration with their portrayal in written sources, such as Eusebius' Life of Constantine.   Download Dr Caillan Davenport Slides in PDF (506KB)

5) Dr Chris Forbes (Macquarie Uni) lectures in New Testament history, the Classical Tradition and the Hellenistic Age.  His topic was The Archaeology of First Century Galilee and the Historical Jesus.  He will also chair the Q&A panel session to conclude the day.

Abstract: Since the 1970s our picture of Galilee in the time of Jesus has been revolutionised by archaeology. The developments have been of two kinds: (1) large quantities of new information from expanding and increasingly sophisticated archaeological research, and (2) the application of models of human settlement and economic activity drawn from wider historical and anthropological research. Both developments are ongoing, with continuing methodological debate and differing conclusions. This lecture will survey the research of the last 35 years, and attempt some tentative conclusions.

One major change in our understanding of Galilee has been provided by the excavations of Sepphoris, the early Herodian capital of Galilee. Though it is never mentioned in the New Testament, Sepphoris was situated only six or seven kilometres north of Nazareth. It was an elegant small city of between 40 and 60 hectares. It was sacked by the Romans after revolts at the time of the death of Herod the Great, and rebuilt by Herod Antipas between 4 and 16 B.C. Thereafter the focus of construction moved to Tiberias, on the Lake of Galilee, but Sepphoris continued to prosper, surviving the Jewish Revolt of 66-70 A.D., and remaining a local urban centre into late antiquity. At the opposite end of the scale, excavations in Nazareth revealed a tiny village of perhaps only a couple of hundred inhabitants.

The "rediscovery" of Sepphoris raised a large number of new questions for scholarship. Was Galilee really a sleepy agrarian region of farming villages, or was it far more urbanised and cosmopolitan than had been realised? Could Jesus have been untouched by the life of a thriving Graeco-Roman city only an hour's walk from his boyhood home? And what economic and social effects would Sepphoris, and the other Herodian foundations, have had on the life of Galilee more generally? Did the cities open up new markets and encourage trade, or were they a net drain on the local economy? Did the region remain culturally parochial and Jewish, or was it open to the wider cosmopolitan world of the Roman Empire? Or were both traditions present, but at different social levels, and if so, did this generate tension between city and rural hinterland?

At the level of detail, the "rediscovery" of Sepphoris raised the possibility that Jesus was alert to the cosmopolitan life of an urbanised environment, and that several of his metaphors and comments might be based in such a background. The case for a more cosmopolitan Galilee gave ammunition to those who argued for a "Cynic Jesus", a Jesus reflecting a Graeco-Roman philosophical critique of his culture and its standards. On a broader level, the question of city - country tensions, and the adult Jesus' apparent avoidance of urban centres, was taken to suggest a reaction against urban, Graeco-Roman values and practices.

More generally, growing understanding of patterns of settlement and trade suggested regional variation within Galilee itself.  In the light of these and other developments, the lecture will attempt to outline both the potential and the limits of our understanding of the archaeological record, and the light that increasingly sophisticated models and methods might cast on Galilee in the early first century of our era.  Paper in PDF (coming).

6) Ms Jacqueline Lloyd, is Senior Lecturer at Laidlaw College, in the School of Theology, Mission and Ministry, in New Zealand.  (Macquarie Uni Post Graduate). Her topic was Excavating Bethsaida: 1987-2011

Abstract : The Bethsaida Excavations Project began in 1987 as a modest search to find and identify the location of Bethsaida.  Since excavations began at et-Tell, the 80 000 square metre mound located near the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, the site has become one of increasing significance revealing evidence of settlement from the early Bronze Age through to the late Roman period.

Remains of homes and artefacts from the first century CE reveal indicators of Jewish settlement along with a thriving fishing industry. It seems almost certain now that the site at this time was the Bethsaida referred to by Josephus and the gospels.  Of equal importance has been the discovery of an eighth century BCE city gate, replete with walls, chambers, courtyard, and high places, which has been described as "the best preserved in the archaeology of the region". (see Note1: below)  It seems likely that the site during this period was the capital city of the kingdom of Geshur.

This paper will give a brief introduction to the site at et-Tell, its location, identification, and history, and will note some of its more significant finds and their importance for our study of the Bible. Note1:  Arav, Rami, Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, Vol. 4. Ed. Richard A. Freund (Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University, 2009), 5.     Download  Jacqueline Lloyd's Slides (PDF 344KB)

7) Colin E. Pitchfork, an Australian numismatist specialising in ancient coins.  His topic was Biblical Coinage - Coins that have links to Israel & the Bible.

Abstract:  Ancient Jewish coins are those struck by various Jewish or Roman authorities to circulate within the area of modern Israel and the surrounding areas. This short presentation will be illustrated by projected images as a power point presentation and will look briefly at some of these coins.

Briefly some examples will be illustrated and discussed on the early Yehud, Philistia and Samarian coinage and will include the remarkable Yehud example known by one piece in the British Museum, which according to some numismatists represents the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 10:16) on the reverse.

Coins noted and mentioned in the Bible will be shown and discussed and they include the gold daric (Ezra 2:69) and some Yehud (Persian name of the Province of Judah), coinage linked by weight to the gerah (1/20th shekel mentioned in Exodus 30;13). It will be followed by a brief discussion on the coinage of the Maccabees (Hasmonian kings) including the coin known as the Menorah prutah. This will be followed by a brief look at the Herodians and the Judeo - Christian tradition with reference to those  kings mentioned in the Bible such as Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip, Herod Agrippa and Agrippa II. Similarly the coinage of the Roman Prefects and Procurators including Pontius Pilate, Antoninus Felix and Porcius Festus will be discussed. Mention will be also made of the coins that Jesus knew including the half shekel and the shekel of Tyre, The Tribute penny (the denarius of Tiberius) and the poor widow's mite, the small bronze prutahs struck by Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BCE).

Finally a comment will be made of the coins of the Jewish War  66-73 CE and the Bar Kokhba Revolt 132-135 CE.

References for further reading:

  • Hendin, David., Guide to Biblical Coins, 5th edition (2010)
  • Hendin, David, Cultural Change, Jewish, Christian and Islamic Coins of the Holy Land, (2011).

Dowload Colin E. Pitchfork Handout in PDF Format (355KB).

8) Dr John Pryor, honorary Research Fellow Macquarie Uni.   His topic was Archaeology and Jesus' Final Days

Abstract: The overwhelming proportion of the canonical gospels are devoted to the final days of Jesus in Jerusalem leading to his crucifixion. And yet, though Jerusalem as the location of his death, during the office of Pontius Pilate as Procurator, is beyond serious dispute, there is much that remains unclear and subject to scholarly debate:

  • What final meal did Jesus eat with his disciples, and why do John and the synoptics seem to disagree on this point?
  • Where did Jesus eat his final communal meal?
  • When was he arrested?
  • Where exactly was he arrested?
  • Where was the house of the High Priest located?
  • Where in the city was Jesus finally condemned by Pilate?
  • Where was the place of execution?
  • Where was his burial place; in particular, was he finally buried in a family tomb?

Each of these questions provides fascinating possibilities and conundrums for anyone interested in the final days of Jesus of Nazareth. This paper can touch on only  a few of the above questions. Despite the criticisms of some, it is the contention of this paper that the archaeological discoveries  of Bliss and Dickie late in the 19th century, and then followed up by Fr Bargil Pixner in the late 1970s, suggesting an Essene Gate located on today's Mt Zion, deserve greater acknowledgement. Moreover, it will be suggested that this discovery and its implications can  shed light on the character of Jesus' final communal meal, its timing, and, more broadly, the nature of his relationship with the Essene movement that flourished in the villages of Judea and that had a presence in Jerusalem. Download Dr John Pryor Paper in PDF (128KB)  or Download Dr John Pryor Slides in PDF (410KB)

9) Dr Karin Sowada (Macquarie Uni Honorary), researcher in Egyptian archaeology & teaches archaeology & the Bible at Mary Andrews College (Sydney).  Her topic was Truth or Dare: Archaeology & the Bible in a Media-driven Culture.

Abstract :  Hardly a month goes by without news in the popular press of a new archaeological discovery that apparently 'proves' or 'disproves' a particular event or person mentioned in the Bible. Increasingly these announcements are often tied to book releases and TV documentaries. This paper examines this phenomenon, assessing the impact of the 24-hour media cycle on archaeological research and scholarship, particularly as it relates to the Bible. The nature of this cycle raises questions about how scholars should engage with the media in relation to their research, while maintaining the integrity of thoughtful, peer-reviewed scholarship. Importantly, it requires more robust engagement with the popular media, and with those who peddle sensationalist discoveries.

Go to the Archaeology and the Media Page - Dr Karin Sowada's talk in both audio and transcript formats - click here.

10) Prof Laurence Welborn (Macquarie Uni & Fordham Uni NY). His many interests include Paul and his Graeco-Roman context.  His topic was Nabataean Archaeology & Paul in Arabia

Abstract:  In 2 Cor. 11:32-33, Paul describes his flight from the ethnarch of King Aretas who had garrisoned the city of the Damascus in order to arrest him.  This passage contains Paul's only reference to a contemporary political figure, Aretas IV of Nabatea. Through archaeology, epigraphy and numismatics, a great deal is known about the long reign of King Aretas.  This paper seeks to answer the question of Aretas' motivation in seeking to arrest Paul, by placing the king's actions in the historical aftermath of the war between Aretas IV and Herod Antipas in the summer of 36 A.D., as reported by Josephus. Download PDF (coming).

Eleven Speakers including both the Conference and the "Curtain Raiser".

Proceedings 2011

Note: Conference papers will be added to this page, progressively when they are received.

For our readers

Papers in the Conference Proceedings 2011 are published in PDF format and on-line only. If you cannot access them, download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing PDF-documents. This also enables you to view Greek text and other original formatting without problems.Adobe reader logo

Conference Curtain Raiser Thursday 12 May 2011

1.1 Brad Bitner Politeia and Privileges: Conflict, Confirmation, And Community in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 Read (PDF version) (PDF 396KB)

1.2 Fitzgerald, Prof John (2011) Curtain Raiser: the Economy of Corinth [not yet available]

SSEC Conference Saturday 14 May 2011

1.3 Welcome

1.4 Prof Laurence Welborn Stephanas of Corinth: Exegetical Observations on 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 and Sociological Implications Read (PDF version) (PDF 105KB)

Abstract: Close attention to the rhetoric, style, and epistolary conventions of Paul's commendation of Stephanas in 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 permits inferences into Stephanas' relationship to Paul, his position within the Christian community,  and his status in Corinthian society.

1.5 Luckritz Marquis, Dr Timothy (2011) All of Us Outside the Camp: Gentiles, Conquerors, and the Logic of Exception in the Corinthian Correspondence [not yet available]

Abstract: Consideration of ancient political ideologies can provide background for Paul's language of Gentile inclusion.  This paper traces such ideologies in the Corinthian correspondence, focusing on rituals of social reversal and regime change among Hellenistic and Roman conquerors.  For Paul, God's welcoming of non-Jews is paradigmatic of a series of social reversals enacted through Christ's death and the proclamation of the gospel. Building on the work of classicist H.S. Versnel and philosopher Giorgio Agamben, Paul's statements about God's acceptance of the Corinthians can be understood through phenomena such as the welcoming of new rulers, as well as the Roman iustitium or "state of exception," best exemplified through tales of responses to the death of Germanicus.  Conspicuous among instances of social reversal in the Corinthian correspondence is 2 Corinthians 3, in which Paul depicts himself and the Corinthians outside the camp of Israel, gazing on God's glory.

The paper concludes by reflecting on Paul's notion of the "nullification" of the Law's effects and the implications of that nullification for broader imperial ideologies.

1.6 Winter, Dr Bruce Men who became gods versus God who became man: neglected epigraphic evidence and the Sitz im Leben of  1 Cor. 8:1-11:1 Read (PDF version) (PDF 517KB)

Abstract: There appears to be a New Testament consensus that the imperial Augustan activities were put in abeyance in the Principate of Tiberius only to be resurrected in Principates of Nero or Domitian. A Doric inscription from Messene from A.D. 2 shows how diligent the official promotion of local imperial cultic activities were in the province of Achaea and other epigraphic bears witness that it continued to be so in all of the Julio Claudian era. This paper aims (I) to review extant epigraphic evidence, (II) its importance for these cultic activities in Corinth, (III) the unexpected exemption of the first Christians with Gallio's important ruling and (IV) their subsequent responses when a new Federal Imperial Cult arrives in Corinth when Nero becomes emperor, the footprints of which are seen 1 Corinthians 8: with reference to the 'so-called gods in the heavens and on earth' and the table and cup of the 'daimonion' 10:20-21.

1.7 Welborn, Prof Laurence Book Launch: The Content and Setting of the Gospel Tradition Collection fo essays edited by Dr Mark Harding and Prof Alanna Nobbs, 466 pages Read (PDF version) (PDF 53KB)

1.8 Brown, Dr Amelia The Legacy of Saint Paul in Late Antique Corinth [not yet available]

Abstract: Today Christians often travel to Corinth in the footsteps of Saint Paul, seeking tangible reminders of his first-century visit. However this modern pilgrimage developed only in the last century, alongside archaeological excavation and mass-market tourism to Greece. In this paper, I explore the textual, epigraphic and archaeological evidence for the legacy of Saint Paul in the early centuries of widespread Christianity at Corinth, from the 4th to 8th centuries. Though interest in Paul and contemporary Corinth is attested by commentaries on his epistles, local cults of Corinthian martyrs like Leonidas and Quadratus also drew pilgrims to their cult places. Awareness of Paul's ministry is apparent at Corinth in letters of Byzantine bishops, inscriptions, and the placement of churches. Corinthians successfully constructed both concrete buildings and local legends over several centuries to attract Christian travellers and maintain the memory of Paul's visit. The tangible results of their efforts deserve study, shed new light on the Byzantine city of Corinth, and illustrate the phenomenon of Christian pilgrimage to Medieval Greece.

1.9 Forbes, Dr Chris Comparing spiritual things with spiritual: 1 Cor. 2:13 and ancient theories of perception and knowledge Read (PDF version) (PDF 24.95KB) [not yet available]

Abstract: The precise meaning of 1 Cor. 2:13b, pneumatikois pneumatika sugkrinontes, has long troubled commentators. Whether the two uses of the term pneumatikos have the same meaning is unclear, and the precise sense of sygkrinein is much debated.

Ancient thinkers from as early as the archaic Greek period conducted an ongoing debate on the nature of perception and knowledge, and the relationship between the properties of the knower and the thing known. We are aware that we "feel cold" because we are warmer than our environment; paradoxically, we feel cold because we are hot. Do we see because we are dark? From the Presocratic philosophers into the 2nd Century C.E. and later, the question whether perception and knowledge functioned due to similarity or due to difference was debated. An understanding of this debate and its ongoing ramifications may help to clarify Paul's language here.

Paul is arguing that perception and knowledge of spiritual things requires the spirit; perception and knowledge are by similarity, not by difference.

1.10 Barnett, Dr Paul Chronology and the Corinthians Read (PDF version) [PDF 131KB]

Abstract: Establishing a chronology for Paul and the Corinthians is not difficult but important.

YearCorinth EphesusMacedonia (Berea?) 
50-51 Paul in Corinth    
52-54 Apollos and Cephas  in Corinth  Paul in Ephesus  
54  Paul's 'previous' letter   
54 or 55    Timothy in Corinth  
Paul in Corinth  ('painful'  visit) 
Paul's 1 Corinthians
Timothy in Ephesus
56 'Tearful' letter  (by Titus) Paul in Ephesus      
57 Paul in Corinth    Paul in Macedonia
Paul's 2 Corinthians

1) Read each letter in chronological context
2) Reflect on likely growth in numbers and change of composition
3) Raises a question of length of Erastus's membership
4) Prompts question why must Paul now buttress Stephanas
5)  2 Cor 10:10 prompts question where to begin one's analysis.

1.11 Concannon, Dr Cavan (2011) Placing Grief, Representing Comfort: Imagining Corinthian Responses to the Antonine Plague Read (PDF version) (PDF 24KB) [not yet available]

Abstract: At the end of the second century CE, the Antonine Plague began to ravage parts of the Roman Empire, adding more instability to the empire in the run up to the collapse of order in the third century.  At about the same time, Bishop Dionysios of Corinth wrote to and received aid from the churches in Rome, as we know from fragments of his letters in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History.  Whether this call for help came as a result of the plague or whether the plague ever arrived in Corinth can never be answered; however, this paper will explore the hypothetical question of what local Corinthian responses to the plague may have looked like.  Where might Corinthians have gone for medical or divine help, where might they have sought aid and comfort, and where might they have expressed their grief?  To ask such questions allows us to place Dionysios' request for Roman aid within the spatial, economic, cultic, and political context of late second-century Corinth and allows us to see the Christian community in the city as part of, not distinct from, the fabric of life, suffering, and death in Corinth.

1.12 Ogereau, Julien (2011) What has Corinth to do with Jerusalem? Paul's Global Politics of Social-Economic Equality and Solidarity Read (PDF version) (PDF 24KB) [not yet available]

Abstract: This paper endeavours to look at the Jerusalem collection from a fresh perspective by giving renewed attention to the language of 'koin¿nia' Paul employs to describe the project in Romans 15:26 and 2 Corinthians 9:13. By adducing relevant literary and epigraphic evidence, and through a brief investigation of the etymological significance of koin¿nia and its root word koinos , it is argued that the expression 'koin¿nian tina poi¿sasthai' ('to establish some koin¿nia', Rom 15:26) bears significant political and socio-economic implications as regards the organisation of the early church. It is also suggested that it strongly resonates with the community ideal of the Jerusalem church, which held 'apanta koina' ('all things in common', Acts 2:44 & 4:32). It is thus concluded that the Jerusalem collection was more than the expression of mere eschatological concern or charitable giving, or driven by the dynamics of social reciprocity. Rather, it was rooted in the radical conviction that the eschatological kingdom of God had inaugurated a new order of socio-economic equality and solidarity. In Paul's mind, this new order was to become characteristic of the nascent Christian ekkl¿sia [or in the greek ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿]   at local and trans-regional levels, and across cultural, ethnical, and social boundaries.

1.13 Blanton, A/Prof. Thomas (2011) Symbolic Goods as Media of Exchange in Paul's Gift Economy Read (PDF version) (PDF 150KB)

Abstract: This paper argues that Pauline epistles construe non-material, discursive productions, such as transcendent benefits ostensibly mediated by the power of a divine being, as media of exchange. According to Greco-Roman norms of reciprocity, gifts given should be reciprocated by counter-gifts. Paul construed benefits such as salvation from imminent eschatological judgment or eternal life in a heavenly dwelling as gifts from the God of Israel; such gifts obligated their recipients to return a counter-gift. Counter-gifts could take the form of material goods or services involving human labor. In Romans 15:27, Paul equates "spiritual things" with "material things," and asserts that a donation of the former type is adequately recompensed by a counter-gift of the latter type. In 2 Cor 9:6-15, he declares that God's "indescribable gift" of salvation from eschatological judgment obliges the Corinthians to respond with their own material gifts to Jerusalem. Their property of exchangeability with material goods or human labor marks religious promises such as that of post-mortem bliss as symbolic goods, and indicates that, in Paul's epistles, religious discourse performs important economic functions within a system of reciprocity.

1.14 Prof Edwin Judge Appreciation of two recent books by Dr John Pryor [not yet available]

Pryor, Dr John The Enigmatic Jew - in quest of the historical Jesus 330 pages ISBN: 1 4 60923251

Pryor, Dr John Jesus Resurrected?- sifting the historical evidence 166 pages ISBN: 1 4 60967119

1.15 Fitzgerald, Prof John Corinth, Early Christianity, and the Ancient Mediterranean Economy [not yet available]

Abstract: From the very beginning, authors referring to Corinth have often seized upon the city's conspicuous economic aspects in describing it. In the Catalogue of Ships, for example, Homer uses the epithet "wealthy" to characterize the city (Iliad 2.570). Similarly, when Homer tells the story of Euchenor of Corinth, he not only characterizes him as a seer's son but also says that he was a "wealthy" man who, despite certain death, went to Troy in part to protect his wealth from the fines imposed by the Achaeans (Iliad 13.663-672). Such economic references were still being made to Corinth centuries later, when Paul established the church at Corinth. This lecture will explore some aspects of Corinth and the forms of Christianity that developed there in light of the ancient Mediterranean economy.

1.16 Amandry, Prof Michael 'Pausanias' description of Corinth. Coins and Architecture' [not yet availalbe]

Pausanias, often called "the Guide", wrote a description of Greece, as it appeared on his journeys during the second century AD. The title of Pausanias' book seems to have been Periégèsis Ellados, Description of Greece, that is a book which intended to be as the modern guides.

Abstract: Pausanias describes several hundred sites, small or important. Among them, of course, is Corinth or, to be more precise, Corinth and its surroundings, that is the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia, the harbours of Lechaeum and Cenchreai, and the Acrocorinth. These sites are described on book II, chapters 1 to 5.

In the case of Corinth, where a Roman colony was founded by Caesar in 44BC, we have both Pausanias' description of monuments, famous works of art and there reproduction on coins, so that the description and the reproduction can be compared.

Content owner: Studies of Early Christianity Last updated: 05 Apr 2019 12:17pm

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