Dubious docetists: a new publication

I have just received my copy of Joseph Verheyden et al. (ed.) Docetism in the early church:the quest for an elusive phenomenon (WUNT 402; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). This includes my essay on Ignatius’ “docetic” opponents, given at the Oxford patristic conference back in 2015. I have made reference to this before, in the post on docetism and the Didachistic Eucharist. I will now record that I sweated blood over that paper. Hopefully it was worth it.

I concluded that “docetism” was not a useful category. I am interested to find that this conclusion is widely shared by other essayists in the volume; since there was no conferring either in advance of or since the submission of the essays this speaks volumes. There are some outstanding essays here; I particularly enjoyed Allen Brent’s philsophical sophistication in identifying enlightenment philosophy of mind as an obstacle to modern understandings of ancient christology, Paul Hartog’s examination of what Ignatius might have added to the kerygma in his polemical context, and Taras Khomych’s rather literate reading of the dance of Jesus in the Acta Johannis. These were my personal highlights, but all the contributions are excellent and worth reading. Beyond the big conclusion, which is that “docetism” is a term which should be abandoned as useless, I was glad to find other points of agreement between other essays and mine, in particular Winrich Löhr’s conclusion that philosophical discourse lay behind a number of the christologies that are classified as docetic, Francis Watson’s observation that Ignatius only speaks of his “docetic” opponents’ denial of Christ’s suffering and not of their denial of any other aspect of Christ, and Jens Schröter’s acceptance of a Hadrianic date for Ignatius’ activity. However, given that there is a lot of common ground among the essays in terms of the materials examined, there is remarkably little redundancy.

The book is €134, which will put it beyond most individuals and many libraries. I am happy to share a pdf of my essay with any reader. My contact details can be found buried somewhere on this blog or on academia.edu. Alternatively leave a comment (if you give your address it will not be published on the blog as I can edit or delete comments before they are displayed.)

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