Saint Paul and the two ways

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article “St Paul and the two ways: Romans 12-13 and pre-baptismal catechesis” Bulletin of the St Philaret Institute 39 (2021), 12-31, alongside some other interesting-looking articles. The journal is open access. Note that the Russian translation (!) appears first. The home page is in Russian… and Google translate turns me into an abbot!

The abstract:

This article suggests that the paraenetic material in Romans 12-13 in being introduced with a reference to baptism and concluding with an eschatological exhortation, again referring to baptism, is deliberately intended to reflect a pre-baptismal catechesis, rather than, as frequently supposed, a synoptic source or Jesus-tradition. Significant parallels with the Didache, and other parts of the two-ways tradition, are observed. This leads to the further observation that the context of this catechesis is shaped in a specifically Jewish context, being reflected in Pliny’s report of Christian activities and in the Elchesite baptismal ritual. Paul is employing a recognizably Jewish form of catechesis here in order to commend his teaching to a primarily Jewish audience. Gentile baptism, however, required a distinct renunciation, and in time a doctrinal element was added to the catechetical programme.

This was actually started as long ago as 2008, in a presentation given at that famous seat of learning, Cuddesdon. They did not appreciate it. I had pulled if off the back burner several times, but only when I pulled it off again late last year, on receiving a request for an article on catechesis from SFI, did I realize that the reason I had made no progress was that I was using the material to try to answer the question of the extent of Paul’s knowledge of Jesus-logia; although the argument tends to indicate that he had none, it is not a slam-dunk, and the question is in any case not the most interesting one. What is interesting is Paul’s knowledge of the catechetical tradition represented by, inter alia, the Didache.

This announcement is filed under e-rrata, as there are two errors of omission.

One comes about because of the passage of time. Namely, although I read Seeberg Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit ages ago, when I was preparing for my trip to Cuddesdon, I really should have re-read it. Had I done so I would have remembered Romans 6:17, χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, which strikes me as really clinching the argument. The τύπος διδαχῆς is surely the two ways.

The other omission is reference to Benjamin A. Edsall, The reception of Paul and early Christian initiation: history and hermeneutics (Cambridge: CUP, 2019). Edsall does not have a lot of time for Carrington and Selwyn who were, alongside Seeberg, the fontes et origines for my thinking here. My excuse here is that I only came across this work after the article was translated and typeset.

In his introductory chapter Edsall suggests that the formal catechumenate was not known in the first or early second centuries. Insofar as it may refer to a formal period of liminal existence with fixed rituals this amounts to a statement of the obvious. Insofar as it may refer to instruction prior to baptism, then the Didache rather tends to contradict Edsall here. To get away from this, Edsall suggests that the two ways material in Didache 1-6 is rather loosely connected to the baptismal rite: “’these things’ need not be restricted to literary reference points and may refer rather to pre-baptismal declarations by the priest and believer (note the plural προειπόντες) rather than to Didache 1– 6.” (p27). There is more, however, to connect the two ways material and the baptismal rite than simply the phrase at Did. 7.1; thus we may note the echoes of the two ways in the report of catechumenate and baptism given to Pliny (Ep. 10.96.7) and the similar echoes in the baptismal rite of the Elchesites (Hippolytus Ref. 9.15.6.) προειπόντες (the plural is noted, though we should also note βαπτίσατε) certainly does refer to pre-baptismal declarations by the baptizer (not a priest, surely!) and possibly the candidate… but these declarations are constituted by the two ways (ταῦτα πάντα). Actually that insight could become another article… remember you read it here first!


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Filed under Didache, E-rrata

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